Creative styles – what’s in fashion now?

dec steph 199aRecently as I read through a discuss string on what constitutes creativity in the field of instructional design I saw one person claim that creativity meant using all the latest trends. I winced a bit, realizing how many people assume “early adapter” is same as creative, when true creativity actually means starting trends, rather than following them.  Now granted no one comes up with ideas in a vacuum. We must all build on what exists, or else we build something so utterly incomprehensible that no one can use it. Creativity is typically defined as the ability to develop a product that is both original or novel and useful.

Now that creativity has become a buzzword (and supposed basis for bolstering a faltering economy) it seems cruel to for anyone to be left out. It is no longer the domain of the eccentric inventors, impractical daydreamers, and those living in garrets on the edge of poverty. Many claim everyone should have the possibility of being creative. But realistically, if you look at any group some people generate far more unique ideas, and some produce more functional and original work than others do.

The latest trend in creativity research is not to find who has it, as much as it is to define the various creative styles. For example Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory described both Adaption and Innovation as styles of creativity. However, but when one looks at how they are defined one will really see that they are levels of creativity.  Because his inventory scores people on a continuum from adaption to innovation,  people fall between working within the system and challenging the system.[1] No one is purely creative or purely uncreative, but neither does everyone have the same level of creativity.

Another creative style assessment know by its acronym, C.A.R.E., (Fahden & Namakkal, 1995). Describes the different approaches that people use.

Conceptual approach encompasses developing new ideas, different alternatives, describing concepts, and forming an overall plan. This is the creative style of the thinking person.

Spontaneous approach is marked by freedom from constraint and traditions, and an ADHD style that focuses on many things at once, impatiently jumping from one to the other – the feeling approach to creativity.

Normative approach is shown by putting ideas into a familiar context, based on past experiences and similar situations to guide them, with a preference for knowing the consequences and following rather than leading. This play-it-safe style is not particularly creative. Maybe these people follow rather than lead when it comes to producing original ideas and products (like the person who assumed following trends was creative) but these are often the kind of people that end up in leadership positions.

Methodical approach is not really creative at all. This approach is demonstrated by focusing on proven solutions, and placing things in order. However, creative people can be methodical because they often adapt a step-by-step, orderly routine when it comes to testing ideas to see which can be converted into practical products.[2]

As in Kirton’s Adapter-Innovator split no one fits completely into any category. Most people use all of these approaches at one time or the other, but they show a definite preference of one type of approach. It is still obvious that that creativity is not spread equally across the masses.  However, everyone may not be driven to be unique to the same extent because they may not want to be creative.

Photo by Dave Cachero
[1] Kirton, M.J. (1976). Adaptors and innovators: A description and measure. Journal of Applied Psychology, 61, pp. 622 – 629.
[2] Carlson Learning Company, (1995). pp. 8-9
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