The truly creative person is one who can think crazy; ……..The creative person is flexible—he is able to change as the situation changes, to break habits, to face indecision and changes in conditions without undue stress.
Ideas are the root of creation.
Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.
Mary Lou Cook
Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.
Creativity requires to let go of certainties.
Chance favors the prepared mind.
You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.
Creativity is a mental activity, with perception, thinking and imagination going hand in hand. It involves generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations between or among existing ideas or concepts. To pu it simply, it is the act of making something new.
Creative thinking is also ‘divergent thinking’ when it considers a variety of thoughts; it is also ‘autistic’ thinking when it indulges in free association where it can see private meanings which may not occur even to intellectuals.
As a phenomenon, it is simple, but it is in fact quite complex in its nature and function. It is also a rare phenomenon, and naturally experts in different fields of human activity—behavioural psychology, social psychology, psychometrics, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, philosophy, history, economics, design research, business, and management—have studied it with great interest. The studies have covered everyday creativity, exceptional creativity and even artificial creativity. Unlike many phenomena in science, there is no single, authoritative perspective or definition of creativity. And unlike many phenomena in psychology, there is no standardized measurement technique.
Creativity, it’s believed, is the result of ‘divine intervention’, of ‘chance’. It’s been associated with genius, mental illness and humour. Some say it is a trait we are born with; others say it can be taught with the application of simple techniques. Creativity has also been viewed as a beneficence of a muse or Muses.
Though people generally associate creativity with ‘art’ and ‘literature’, it’s also an essential part of ‘innovation’and ‘invention’.
What is creativity?
It’s a process of developing new, uncommon, or unique ideas, using imagination, restructuring and re-evaluating already existing knowledge.
To put it another way, it’s the act of
(i) bringing into existence
(ii) at a given period of ‘time’
(iii) an experience
(iv) for the mind, body or both
(v) believed to be unique at that given time.
Who is a creative thinker?
Creative thinkers may be intellectuals but are definitely talented in some special way. They desire to be creative, they believe there is a solution, they relentlessly pursue the solution for its own sake, they are highly motivated (intrinsically), are self-directed (no one need prompt them), are self-starting (without external push), are diligent, are independent in their judgements, are self-assertive and do use their talents optimally, do work hard incessantly, consciously and subconsciously. They have such a mind-set that even though they are not mentally busy with the problem, ‘chance’ seems to hand the solution to them. And they seemed to arrive through accident insights or flashes.
Some famous creative thinkers
Newton got his ‘flash’ as he noticed that when he got into the tub exactly the same amount of water flowed over the side as the volume of his body that was in the water.
Sir Jadish Chandra Bose was thought crazy when he suggested that the plants had a life of their own and were subject to fatigue, recovery, depression and exaltation. He proved this with his ‘crescograph’—an instrument that could record the reaction of plants to manures, poisons, that could show plants are capable of feeling, that they have a sixth sense which tells them of the approach of a stranger.
Alexander Graham Bell’s dream of making human voice move from one ear to another without the owners being close to each other was considered ‘wild’. He did work hard, kept experimenting, and ‘chance’ provided him the clue.
Alexander Fleming chanced upon pencillin when, the unusual scientist that he was, he didn’t throw away the contaminated culture but was instead interested in the mouldspore that dropped on the culture plate, and he noted that the ‘contamination’ was killing germs.
Adi Sankara (Advaitham), Ramanujacharya (Dvaitham) (two Indian philosophers preaching non-duality and duality respectively), Buddha (the ten sins), Jesus, Prophet Muhammad, Martin Luther (Protestantism), Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Albert Einestein are some other well-known creative thinkers.
Steps to creative thinking
1. You start with the formulation of a problem or phenomenon and state it clearly.
2. You then gather knowledge, facts, data required from you memory, from external
inputs through reading ‘literature’, your colleagues or databases. You assimilate and
process this information, think, associate, sort or align into new categories and
contexts, analyze, argue, counter-argue. You work for days, weeks or months in
waking and sleeping moments. No solution seems to be in sight. You turn away from
your effort either deliberately or involuntarily.
3. Now, whatever confusion there was seems to lose its grip, whatever ideas that were
interfering with the solution seem to lose their force or fade. And during the time you
may be undergoing an experience, a clue jumps at you out of the blue as it were. But
actually you and your main focus have never separated for the subconscious thought
process has been at work.
4. Your mind perceives the clue as it strikes you, your conscious mind seizes the
opportunity, uses the clue and evolves a solution as it emerges.
5. You now evaluate the worthiness of the apparent solution to check if you do have the
It’s also possible that the flash turns out to be unsatisfactory, and you are again back to square one, making another attempt.
Can we produce more creative thinkers than there are?
‘You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him to find it within himself,’ says
The desire to be creative, the relentless pursuit of a solution for its own sake, the intrinsic motivation are generally innate in a creative thinker. But it is possible to identify or locate such people or those who by their behaviour do indicate a clear ‘leaning’ towards creativity, and it’s equally possible to provide an environment and hope for the best.
Besides, several driving forces like a rapidly expanding marketplace, increasing competitiveness, diverse interests of consumers have driven business houses to plan for and provide an innovation-conducive environment. So that those who have somehow managed to retain their inherent creative talents despite a unhelpful formal education system can be useful to themselves and to the society.
This should amply provide an extrinsic atmosphere to nurture and promote the desire to be creative, the relentless pursuit of a solution for its own sake and the intrinsic motivation.
1. It should bring together a band of creative thinkers because ‘creativity is contagious.’
2. It should assure them of
full management support—no interference/restriction in terms of research duration,
of budget, of working hours etc.,
cutting down red tape to the barest minimum.
3. It should announce and implement a system of rewards.
4. It should express appreciation of effort by meeting the expectations.
5. It should ensure non-intervention in the research activity by ‘administrative’ leaders.
6. It should seriously avoid looking at ‘innovation’ efforts through ‘expenses’ spectacles;
it’s the genuineness of the effort that matters, and if an innovation occurs, it’s a bonus.
Creativity Techniques for short-term job activities
(i) At group level
There are time-bound job activities that can pose problems for which solutions will be needed. When a large number of employees are to be involved for sharing of thoughts freely without fear or favour, seminars and symposiums can be arranged. More importantly, brainstorming sessions could be held when a smaller number of people need to come together for engaging their minds.
These sessions could be held in an open, free atmosphere when members could air their thoughts without prejudice, without being considered crazy, wild or silly because the intention is to gather as many thoughts as possible before they can seriously consider them for discussion, critical analysis and then arrive at consensus. They can promote cross-fertilization because people working together can think up of new ideas that may not strike them when they work alone. As there are more individuals, these sessions can help them look at all the aspects from as many angles as they are members.
(ii) Thought gathering at individual level
1. Allow your mind to roam freely. If necessary, take a walk, let your mind spin. Have a
pen and a writing pad at the ready. As thoughts flow, write them down. Don’t
worry now about whether they make sense or not.
2. Decide how many ideas will satisfy you before you go to the next step of looking at
them in order to analyze them.
3. Once you have the required number, pause for a moment to decide if they are enough
or you’d like a few more to crop up. If the latter, go on thinking, who knows, some
more thoughts may occur to you.
4. Discuss the problem with someone who is no way connected to the job in hand. Your
friend or neighbour may surprise you.
5. Think about the problem just before going to sleep. Tell yourself you’re going to
dream about a solution to the problem. And before you know what has happened, you
may really end up dreaming a way of solving the problem.
6. Think about the problem when your mind is fresh—be it in the morning, be it late in
7. Think of the problem in visuals. That is, form images in your mind. They help you to
see the problem in different perspectives. They give life and colour to your ideas.
8. If you can, put around you objects related to the problem so that they may trigger a
thought or an idea even when your mind is on other things.
9. Change your track of thought process. For example, suppose you’ve been thinking
over and over again: ‘A, therefore B, therefore C, therefore D, and then you get stuck
and ask yourself, ‘where can I go from here?’ Backtrack, say, to B and see if you can
proceed from there.
10. Ask yourself why the problem exists at all. Think about the background to the
problem to see if it can throw light upon the problem itself so that you can handle it
Probably there are certain other things you can add to this list and go about solving problems.
You’re thinking laterally when you move away from conventional thinking and look for novel solutions. When you think laterally, you produce a solution that no other person can ever think of. The point of lateral thinking is that many problems require a different perspective to solve successfully.
· recognizes dominant ideas that polarize the perception of a problem,
· avoids traditional ways of looking for solutions,
· uses imagination to look at a problem differently.
Of course, there’s an element of cleverness in lateral thinking.
A few instances
1. DeBono has this anecdote:
A merchant owed money to a moneylender. He agreed
to the moneylender’s suggestion that the debt could be
settled by selecting one of the two stones the moneylender
would put in a bag and that if his daughter picked the white
stone, he wouldn’t have to pay back the debt but if his daughter
picked the black one, the moneylender would take the daughter
as his wife. However, the moneylender "fixed" the outcome by
putting two black stones in the bag. The daughter saws this.
She picked a stone out of the bag, and immediately dropped it
onto the path full of other stones. She said that the stone she picked
must have been the opposite color of the one remaining in the bag.
If the moneylender called her bluff, he would be found to be dishonest,
so he left the place without another word. The daughter solved the
problem using lateral thinking.
2. In The Mahabharatha, an Indian epic, the Kauravas and the Pandavas
are getting ready for an epic battle at Khurkshethra. Lord
Krishna knows that Gandhari wants to pass on her spiritual
powers to her son Duryodhana so that he would not be killed
in the battle. So when Duryodhana is on his way to meet his
mother, Lord Krishna suggests to him that since no grown man
should appear before his mother naked, he should cover his loins.
Duryodhana acts accordingly and meets his mother. Gandhari
removes her blindfold and starts transmitting her powers through
her eyes on to the body of Duryodhana as she passes her eyes
from head to toe. To her horror, she finds the loins of Duryodhana
covered and fails to protect that area.
Lord Krishna used his lateral thinking ability to have a portion of
Duroyodhana’s unprotected body so that Bhima could kill him,
striking at the loins.
3. Birbal served at Akbar’s court, a muslim king who ruled Inida,
and was known for solving problems in a very unusual manner.
Once a rich man approached him and requested his help
in finding out who stole a silver plate from his house.
He told Birbal that if at all he suspected only the servants.
Birbal went to the rich man’s house, called the servants and told
them that only one of them could have stolen the silver plate and
that a confession would lead to a pardon. When no servant responded,
he ordered each one of them to bring to him a stick of the same size.
Then Birbal told them to take the sticks home and bring them back
to him the next day. He also warned them that the person who returned
with his stick grown one inch longer would be thief.
The thief was so frightened that he could not take the risk of the stick
growing one inch longer. So he cut the stick one inch shorter and slept.
When he woke up, he found that the stick had not grown one inch longer.
Birbal thought laterally and identified the thief in a manner no one else
could have thought of!
Distinguishing between creativity and innovation
The distincition between the two expressions in one of perspective. Both are novel and appropriate. But creativity provides the concept and innovation realizses the concept. Creativity is of the mind and innovation is of the ‘matter’. Creativity is the idea and innovation is its shape.
All the same, creativity is preferred in ‘art’ disciplines whereas innovation in ‘science’ and ‘business’ disciplines.