Creativity and New York

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Defining creativity

How do we define creativity? The most frequent answers are "new", "unique". "different", and "better". The dictionary provides little assistance: "creativity: the ability to create". Creativity consultant Joyce Wycoff (1991) defines creativity as "new and useful". Creativity is the act of "seeing things that everyone around us sees while making connections that no on else has made." (p. 22)

At the other end of the spectrum, B.F Skinner (1974), the foremost expert on behaviorist theory, describes creative individuals as very good at generating mutations. He points out that people who produce more mutations are more likely to generate one that is reinforcing. The behaviorist theory falls short because it fails to recognize or explain the uniqueness of individuals.

In the classic book Science and Human Values, (Harper & Row. 1956) J. Bronowski states that the creative activity of the scientist and the artist are the same. Creativity is an attempt to discover "hidden likeness" in the universe. It is a search for recognition and order.

Many writers and artists have described creativity as something external to the body. They believe that the source of inspiration exists outside the person. Author Joseph Heller describes his own experience. "I don't understand the process of imagination though I know that I am very much at its mercy. I feel like these ideas are floating around in the air and they pick me to settle upon. The ideas come to me. I don't produce them at will" (Zdenek, 1983, p.10).

In contrast, business analysis Scott Witt (1983) believes that new ideas are never original, but rather, they involve the combining and adaptation of other people's ideas. He refers to the brightest people in business, science and arts, as Creative Copycats because their ideas are an adaptation of other products, formulas or systems.

Child development author Joseph Chilton Pearce describes creativity as "moving from the known to the unknown." Culture exerts a negative force on creativity according to Pearce, however, "were it not for creativity, culture itself would not be created". (Pearce, 1974, p. 23)

Donald Hebb, one of the foremost theoreticians on the subject of the human brain, believes that "every normal human being is creative all the is not something that occurs only in outstanding individuals". (Restak, 1984, p. 228)

Creativity is an expression of our unique perspective to a situation or problem. It transcends our desire to be part of the group. Abraham Maslow referred to self-actualization as the need to express our individual talents and become the best that we can. It is a drive to fulfill our potential. Maslow identified fifteen traits of a self-actualized person. These included highly valued traits such as self-acceptance, spontaneity, independence, tolerance, altruism, ethics, and capable of loving others. (Wycoff, 1991, p. 24)

Wycoff (1991, p. 26) identifies four traits found in creative people:

1) They are willing to take risks and have the courage to be wrong.

2) They are willing to express their thoughts and feelings.

3) They have a sense of humor.

4) They accept and trust their own intuition.

David Perkins, of Harvard University, has identified several other traits common in creative people: (Wycoff, 1991, p. 27)

5) They have a drive to find order in a chaotic situation.

6) They are interested in unusual problems, as well as solutions.

7) They have the ability to make new connections and challenge traditional assumptions.

8) They temper idea creation by testing and judgment.

9) They enjoy pushing the boundaries of their competence.

10) They are motivated by the problem itself, rather than any kind of reward or recognition.

Wycoff believes that the traits of creativity can be taught. She points out the near total failure of our educational system to encourage and teach these characteristics. In fact, it would seem that our...
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