How is creativity

Creativity: More than “just” art

When we look at a particular problem, various possible solutions come to mind. Let's take the example from above: The car is in the workshop. How do I get home from there? I could run, take a taxi, or call a friend and ask them to pick me up. If the circumstances allow, I could take the train or bus. Creating such possible scenarios is called divergent thinking.

Two ways of thinking

It is imperative for creativity. The further the ideas move away from the norm, the more creative they become: I could of course hop home. Why not? At least it would be feasible. Flying is probably out of the question, neither with the plane nor with my non-existent wings.

That leads us to the second important aspect: that convergent thinking. From all the possibilities we have to choose the one that will help us. We rule out various things and ultimately decide: It's nice weather and not too far, so I run.
To be really creative, we need both divergent and convergent thinking skills. Otherwise we might have a lot of ideas, but ultimately we wouldn't implement any of them.

And how do you research something like that?

A short excursion into the research method: The scientists often examine divergent thinking with the “Alternative Uses Task”. The test subjects should think of new uses for everyday objects. How many ideas they find or how far they are from the actual use of the object is the measure of their creativity.

There is the “Remote Associates Test” for convergent thinking: the scientists provide words that initially have nothing to do with each other, for example sauce, horse, tree. The test persons should then find a word that forms a compound word with all of these words: apple sauce, horse apple, apple tree.

However, some doubt whether these attempts can really separate divergent and convergent thinking. In a 2019 publication, American researchers argue that both tasks require divergent and convergent thinking.

Intelligence helps with creativity

In addition to the ability to think, there are personal characteristics that characterize creative people. For example intelligence, says Hans-Peter Erb: “Those who think awkwardly and can process little information at the same time are typically less creative.” Therefore, a certain intelligence is necessary.

In the case of creative people, the motivation to do something tends to come from within - they act because they want to and they enjoy it. At school, for example, some students like to learn on their own, others have to be motivated by grades or the prospect of graduation.

For Hans-Peter Erb it is also important that creative people are often good at dealing with uncertainties. Is there a problem, an ambiguity, a contradiction? Great, always bring it on! Creative people see it as a challenge, while others prefer not to even notice the problem. This ability is called ambiguity tolerance. Like curiosity and openness to new things, it is one of the characteristics that we often find in creative people. Incidentally, Hans-Peter Erb also talks about creative characteristics and other questions about creativity in his video blog.