The Best Way to Have a Good Idea Is to Have Lots of Ideas
Paul T. Skaggs, Associate Professor | Brigham Young University
After reviewing 22 definitions of creativity, P. K. Welsh found significant levels of agreement about the key attributes of these definitions. From her review of the literature, she proposed the following definition: “Creativity is the process of generating unique products by transformation of existing products. These products, tangible and intangible, must be unique, and must meet the criteria of purpose and value established by the creator”.1
Isaksen and Treffinger defined creativity as “making and communicating meaningful new connections in order to think of many possibilities, think and experience in various ways using different points of view, think of new and unusual possibilities, and guide in generating and selecting alternatives.”2
Creativity is the ability to make “combinations of previously unrelated structures in such a way that you get more out of the emergent whole than parts you have put in.”3
All these definitions point to the fact that creativity is a “transforming of existing products,” “communicating new connections” or “combinations of previously unrelated structures.” These definitions not only define creativity but also give us a clue on how to be creative.
These definitions help creativity become more of a concrete concept than a mystical one. It is a skill that can be developed if we can learn to view things in a new way. We need to learn how to play with, combine, connect, or transform ideas in a surprising and useful way.
Three especially important aspects of creativity to the designer are: problem finding, new combinations or connections, and the ability perceiving things in a nonhabitual way. This paper addresses the latter two concepts. Problem finding is the most intriguing of the three, but is beyond the scope of this paper.
Books on creativity are full of techniques to help make new connections or combinations. Most creativity techniques are to help view things differently than we have before. Techniques force our thinking down a new and sometimes uncomfortable path. These techniques include; analogies, metaphors, questions, checklists, brainstorming, attribute listing, and mind mapping. Other experiences are adopted, adapted, or evolutions of popular techniques that include: recycle, excursions, attribute substituting, modifying, removing, and forced combining.
Evaluation of creative ideas is a very subjective task but there is a criterion. All of our creative experiences are evaluated on fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration, as prescribed by Robert Sternberg in his book Handbook on Creativity. “Typically creativity tests are scored for
luency (total number of relevant responses), flexibility (approaching the problem from a number of directions), originality (the statistical rarity of the responses), and elaboration (amount of detail in the responses).”4