Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


The Four Creativity Archetypes

People embrace creativity in different ways. Which one describes you?

An archetype is an original model of a person, ideal example, or a prototype after which others are copied, patterned, or emulated; a symbol universally recognized by all. Archetypes put context to a situation.

Archetypes are used in many domains. Marketers, for example, create archetypes to attach a personality to a brand. In politics, it's useful to understand whether a commentator is an "archetypical democrat" or an "archetypical republican." Religion, business, education: all use archetypes in some form.

Creative activity can be defined by four archetypes:

The Creativity Doer: This is a practitioner of creativity, day in and day out. They innovate on a regular basis. The Creativity Doer is usually on the front lines of a problem and feels both accountable and motivated to come up with new and useful ideas. They likely use a systematic approach to generate ideas, possibly without realizing it. They approach situations with a natural inclination to change the status quo rather than preserve it.

The Creativity Watcher: This is someone who has a strong interest or obsession with the creative output of other people. They are fascinated by novelty. They consume it, read about it, and report on it. They marvel at what others create but stop short of practicing serious creativity. They report useful insights about creativity and innovators. They add value by commenting on trends and milestones in the world of creativity. Entire websites such as Gizmodo and Engadget fit this archetype.

The Creativity Preacher: They inspires others of the need to innovate. They make the case for creativity and change. They relate creativity to our everyday lives as well as to the global economy. They create both hope and fear - hope in terms of what can be created through creativity, and fear from the consequences of not innovating. The end is near in the form of being "disrupted."

The Creativity Teacher: They help others learn methods and techniques of creativity. They infect others with tools to create new ideas. Teachers are interventionalists. Their students become Doers (if they have taught them well). A number of university professors and creativity consultants fit this archetype.

Organizations need all four archetypes. Those that preach create the mandate for change. They mobilize the leadership and staff to focus on creativity as a source of organic growth. The Doers and Teachers tend to put things into motion. Watchers are the "sense makers." They are trend spotters. They have a unique perspective on external creativity to give useful context to internal creativity. A lot of corporate mergers and acquisition departments fall into this category. They are "hunters" of opportunity.

More from Drew Boyd
More from Psychology Today