Equal Opportunity Creativity!


When my book Breakthrough Creativity was published in 2001, I received many (mostly positive) reviews. One review in particular, however, made me stop and ponder whether my message about creativity was clear. This reviewer, writing in 2003, asked “are some types [talents] more creative than others?”

The reviewer went on to cite research that supported the view that individuals who prefer Intuiting as opposed to Sensing are more creative than others. This reviewer was using the definitions of these terms that those familiar with Carl Jung’s and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator® models will recognize:  Intuiting involves seeing information as concepts and patterns, focusing on possibilities and the future, and Sensing involves seeing information as details, specifics, focusing on what is or what was, and building on what has already been done.

I have two major concerns about this point of view, which unfortunately is shared by many. I am finally, after 9 years, getting around to addressing them (that was 2001, after all, before the social media revolution!):

  1. The definition of creativity. Too often researchers who make this claim use a definition of creativity as “idea generation,” or “finding possibilities,” being “fluent” and “flexible.” Sometimes, they aren’t even really clear about what they are researching, but use some vague understanding of creativity that everyone is assumed to understand or some rating by supervisors or peers as a “creative” individual. Their results are thus necessarily skewed based on the underlying definition of creativity. (My definition, by the way, is the “ability to produce different and valuable results.”)
  2. Overlooking creative contributions of individuals with a preference for sensing. There are many, many individuals who have made extraordinarily creative contributions and who exhibit a preference for Sensing across a variety of fields. Well-known examples include inventor Thomas Edison who is quoted as having said “genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration,” “realist” painter Edward Hopper,  impressionist painters, such as Claude Monet and Mary Cassatt, photographer Ansel Adams, writer Charles Dickens with his meticulous descriptions, and the list goes on. Even Leonardo daVinci, with his incredibly detailed notebooks, exhibited Sensing preferences. To argue that Intuiting types are more creative overlooks the creativity that results from seeing things differently, not as big ideas, but which still produces highly creative contributions. It also stigmatizes those who prefer Sensing as not being viewed as “creative.” Since I believe our sense of ourselves as “creative” is vital to further developing our creativity, this is a major concern!

Of course, the reviewer is correct in asking “are some of us more creative than others.” That answer is “yes.” But for a different reason. Some of us have developed our creativity to a finer or deeper or greater degree than others. There is no question of that! I believe we all have an obligation to grow our creativity, to take it to the next level. One way to address this challenge is to first be aware of how you are creative and also to recognize and value the potential for every individual to develop his or her creativity to greater levels. And since Jung, upon whom the Breakthrough Creativity approach is based, believed we have all types (or my term “talents”) within us, developing our creativity may involve tapping into those other talents as well.

You may never get to what Teresa Amabile calls “genius level” creativity or what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “Bid C” Creativity, but we all have the potential to be enormously creative – if we want to! And if the world would stop confining “great” creatives to buckets they don’t deserve!

This entry was posted in Creative Competency in Leaders, Creativity and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.