What Are the Sources of Creativity and Innovation in Individuals?

A variety of theorists, using case studies, experiments and a variety of research methods, have attempted to better understand the sources of creativity and innovation in individuals. While these efforts have contributed significantly to broadening our comprehension of the subject, there is nonetheless disagreement between theorists and many hypotheses that remain to be fully substantiated. The challenge lies partially in the nature and definition of creativity itself. Broad, complex and multi-faceted, creativity can take many forms and can be found within a variety of contexts. It is embodied by individuals with a broad range of personal characteristics and backgrounds. It appears that the only rule is that there are no hard and fast rules concerning the sources of creativity. As such, the following paragraphs synthesize the current viewpoints, with the caveat that our understanding of the topic is still a work in progress. Cognitive psychology provides the most prolific and developed perspective on the sources of individual creativity. In 1950, J.P. Guilford, then President of the American Psychological Association, stated in his presidential address that the topic of creativity deserved greater

attention. Following this seminal call to action, psychological research on creativity expanded significantly. These efforts have concentrated on the cognitive processes behind creativity, the characteristics of creative people, the development of creativity across the individual life span, and the social environments most conducive to creativity (Simonton, p. 1). Teresa Amabile, PhD in Psychology and Head of the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at the Harvard Business School, has provided the field with one of the most simple and yet comprehensive frameworks for the topic. As depicted in the diagram below, creativity arises through the confluence of the following three components:

 Knowledge: All the relevant understanding an individual brings to bear on a creative effort.

 Creative Thinking: Relates to how people approach problems and depends on personality and thinking/working style.

 Motivation: Motivation is generally accepted as key to creative production, and the most important motivators are intrinsic passion and interest in the work itself.

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