In a recent blog post, I wrote about the definition of innovation.  Since then, I have been considering the process of innovation and its component parts.  Creativity, one of these component parts, leaps out immediately.  Simply put, creativity is a fundamental part of the process of innovation, but they are not the same thing.  Furthermore, the way we define and use the word creativity in the 21st century is only the current stopping place for the meaning of creativity. 

The idea or meaning of “creativity” has been evolving for literally thousands of years.  In its earliest use, the concept of creativity was limited to the work of the Gods, including the work of God creating the universe out of nothing.  Gradually, the meaning of creativity expanded to include the work of visual artists, especially those who paint, draw, sculpt or design buildings.  Today, the meaning of creativity has evolved to include almost any act that results in the production of something new through imaginative skill, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form.  However, even this simple attempt at a definition is inadequate to fully describe the creative act.

Understanding the neurological processes of creativity is even more complicated because this scientific endeavor is in an almost infant state.  Consequently, there are many theories of the processes that result in creativity.  Many of these theories seem to contradict each other and this further complicates our ability to fully assess how creativity takes place. 

With this in mind, we won’t spend a lot of time in this post considering the definition of creativity, rather we will let some creative people describe the process.  This will move us toward the meaning of creativity without the limiting effect of a narrow, short definition.  In the interest of time and space, I choose to highlight only a few thoughts from among the many that could be considered.   

Thomas Edison described the creative moment when he said, “The first step is an intuition and comes with a burst.”  He also said that, “Inventors must be poets; otherwise they will not have imagination.”

Albert Einstein said, “”The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind a faithful servant.  We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”  Further, he added, “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.”

Walt Disney, one of the great creators of our time, described the creative process this way.  “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”  Curiosity, a building block of creativity, will no doubt be the topic of a later blog post.

Continuing, the noted artist, Vincent van Gogh, cautioned those who become discouraged by a perceived lack of creative talent when he suggested that, “If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

Betty Edwards, author of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, echoed van Gogh’s thoughts with the simple words, “Anyone can draw.”  This is a statement I challenged because of a life long belief that I could not draw.  Happily, I learned that she was right and, after studying the principles in her book, I can draw!  

Today, I wonder what other hidden creative gifts are buried in the undiscovered talents and abilities of each one of us.