Everybody with breath seems to have a take on what ‘creative’ is. Most immediately envision artists, musicians and so on. ‘Creative’ is also linked to ‘talent’ and is what separates the wannabe’s from the accomplished.
Many people associate the popular ‘thinking out the box’ phrase with lateral thinking whilst the word ‘creative’ is often linked to a visible output (a painting, music piece etc). ‘Lateral thinking’ is thus a particular way of thinking and is not necessarily associated with a creative output.
This understanding of creativity is limited as ‘creative’ focuses on output – something visible and measurable probably by someone ‘in the know’. The output is accepted by a market and the word ‘value’ becomes attached to this output. You write a poem and it is published, you compose a piece of music and it becomes a hit. Obviously people who do accomplish the above are lateral thinking creative talent! They have probably placed themselves in careers where they can create for economic value as they believe or hope that they can sustain the process. When we make these associations, fears of not being good enough to be creative surface.
We can expand our understanding by considering these definitions:
Creative Thinking: Specific thought processes which improve the ability to be creative. Being in an optimal state of mind for generating new ideas. To think deliberately in ways that improve the likelihood of new thoughts occurring. To maximize the ability of the brain to think of newideas. The ability to think of original, diverse and elaborate ideas. A series of mental actions which produce changes and developments of thought. The process of exploring multiple avenues of actions or thoughts.
(Sometimes called divergent thinking because thought patterns and areas of belief are expanded.)
Lateral Thinking: Similar to Creative Thinking. Also: Seeking to solve problems by unorthodox or apparently illogical methods. “A set of systematic techniques used for changing concepts and perceptions and generating new ones”, “Exploring multiple possibilities and approaches instead of pursuing a single approach.” (Edward de Bono, originator of the phrase)
Both definitions emphasize that creative and lateral thinking are specific deliberate processes. For me, this is where creativity begins – with your way of thinking.
Are you creative?
We can’t all paint like Vermeer or sing like Britney (relief?!) but we can add value to our lives by improving our lateral and creative thinking skills. For example, X may be a terrible ceramist but an excellent legal negotiator. It’s possible that in the boardroom X would be considered ‘talented’. Often people like this engage in a ‘downtime’ creative activity just in order to stimulate their lateral and creative thinking capacity. But then too, often they don’t! They exercise their lateral thinking by reading, striking up conversations with strangers, developing new business models, writing a policy that was never considered before, experiment in the kitchen, bedroom and so forth.
Creative or ‘talented’ outputs are best left to the critics and aesthetes.
The definition of lateral thinking and creativity is not tied up in the ‘things you make’. I prefer supporting the understanding that lateral and creative thinking is a process which can be taught, nurtured and developed.
Talent of course, is something exceptional.