What Is Creativity?
An act of creativity can be grand and inspiring, such as creating a beautiful painting or designing an innovative new product. But an idea need not be artistic or world-changing to count as creative. Life requires daily acts of ingenuity and novel workarounds; in this sense, almost everyone possesses some amount of creativity.
Research shows that creative thinking involves making new connections between different regions of the brain, which is accomplished by cultivating divergent thinking skills and deliberately exposing oneself to new experiences and to learning. While research psychologists are interested in tapping innovative thinking, clinical psychologists sometimes encourage patients to use artistic expression as a way to confront difficult feelings.
It is in everyone's interest to nurture creative impulses, regardless of one's day job. How can someone go about shaking up the way they think? Creativity is associated with many factors—including conducive environments, ideal collaborators, personality traits, spirituality, and just a hint of serendipity. Finding the right combination of these isn't always easy, but the outcomes are well worth it.
How to Be More Creative
Many people feel that they have no or very limited creative ability—even some who work in creative fields—and it's true that certain individuals are more creative than others. Fortunately, however, creativity can be acquired and honed at any age or experience level.
Innovation is not some divine gift; it’s actually the skilled application of knowledge in new and exciting ways. It requires changing up one's normal routine, stepping outside of typical comfort zones, and paying attention to the present moment.
When learning new information, taking a break—either by sleeping or simply enjoying a distraction—is another way of allowing the unconscious mind to process the data in novel and surprising ways. This often lays the groundwork for a creative insight or breakthrough.
Does Creativity Have a Dark Side?
Creativity is typically seen as a socially beneficial trait. But some people use their imaginations in pursuit of antisocial ends—what's sometimes termed “dark creativity.”
A scam artist who devises a novel or foolproof scheme for luring victims is exercising creativity. But as it’s being deployed to harm others and enrich himself, most observers would find his scheme objectionable, no matter how imaginative.
In recent years, researchers have sought a greater understanding of how darkness and creativity interrelate. Some studies have found that creativity is associated with narcissism; others have identified a link between higher creativity and reduced honesty and humility. In one study, dispositional creativity was found to predict unethical behavior.
Ultimately, creativity may be better conceived as neither inherently positive nor inherently negative. Instead, it may be best to assess motivations and outcomes when judging the value of any creative act.