A formula for being creative?

Depth of Understanding + Breadth of Exploration + Striving = Potential Creativity

I came up with this formula as a way of capturing the essence of creativity, but upon reflection it can be misleading because it is not meant to be applied in simplistic ways. The formula above says something about what is necessary for creative activity, but it is not be sufficient.

Functional or gimmicky?
Functional or gimmicky?

For instance, say you wanted to create a new chair. You would need to know about other kinds of chairs and materials, how they work, and how they’re built. In other words, you need a depth of understanding because without it, there is nothing to create from.

But in order to create something original, you will also need to bring in other fields and disciplines because often ideas from the “outside” is what generates a new way of looking at the problem. Consequently, you need to understand broadly.

True creative efforts though will suffer many frustrating setbacks due to your lack of understanding. It is original work afterall! Thus the energy source required to push through this barrier is striving. Without it, the creative effort will never see its fruits.

Sadly, despite all that work, the outcome is only potentially creative because I have neglected other forces that may strike down the creative effort. What if this new chair is not tolerated by society? What if the competition steals the idea? What if the political environment changes?

Still… it doesn’t hurt to play around with a formula, does it?

2 Replies to “A formula for being creative?”

  1. Good article – I think you’ve a succinct formula there, including how the idea is received by the general public. Even if the idea is rejected (or doesn’t work) it adds to the ‘body of research’ that may be picked up at a later time when the creator (or another) integrates it into another creation. Serendipity can be a major factor the creative process as well – the unintended consequences of experimentation that open up new avenues. There’s a long history that in science & art (I can attest.)

  2. Chris, I find your use of the term “potential creativity” interesting. I believe solutions (or answers or ideas) can be creative in their potential use(s). But creativity is creativity no matter what way you cut it. The creativity of an idea/answer/solution cannot be diminished by its feasbility or usability.

    The process of being creative and the application of creative outputs are two different endeavours. While some may measure the success of a creative process by the applicablity and use of the output, it could be argued the creative process itself is successful simply by the output of an idea.

    I can only think of one other consistent presence in all creative processes – a catalyst. In my own experience, something always sparks the flame of creativity, which leads to the journey you described.

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