Creativity is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. There are different types of creativity, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Knowing which type of creativity you work best with can help you harness your power and be more successful in your creative endeavors. Here’s an overview of the four major types of creativity.
What Is Creativity and Where Does It Come From
Creativity is the ability to go beyond traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, and interpretations.
In other words, everything you create is something new.
You applied creativity when you found a new way to do your job more efficiently. Your friend did it when she designed a website with a creative idea for her business. The artist across town does it every time she paints.
Creativity is a skill that anyone can develop with a little practice and effort. It doesn’t have to be artistic; there are many ways to “create” something unique.
Creativity Types as Opposed to Creativity Processes
You should be familiar with the term “creativity process” and know that it’s an umbrella term for anything having to do with the steps or sequential phases needed to be creative.
A creativity type is just another way to categorize and understand creativity.
You can think of it as being someone’s creative personality.
Creativity types are distinct from creativity approaches, which are broad approaches to a task in which one can also be creative. Brainstorming, for example, is a common way to be creative because it involves collecting many ideas and then selecting a few good ones.
You can brainstorm using many different methods (although there are some preferred methods), but the results will always fall into the same category: You’ve found new ideas, and that’s what you wanted to accomplish in the first place.
Creativity types also differ from creativity styles, which are the preferences people have when they want to be creative. Some people like to use their imagination (this is often referred to as “imagination-prone”), while others like to use real-world examples (also referred to as “realistic” or “practical”).
Finally, creativity types differ from traits associated with certain personality types- introverts, for example, don’t tend to think out loud as much as extroverts when working on something new and unfamiliar!
People who prefer concrete thinking might be drawn to technical subjects like math or engineering, while people who prefer abstract thinking like to solve problems creatively through language skills like fiction writing.
So it’s not just how you think about things that matter, but what types of things interest you most!
There Are Four Types of Creative Thinking Processes – Convergent, Divergent, Associative, and Synthetic
Often people focus on only two of the four types: Convergent and Divergent thinking. This involves creating something new and bringing it to life using your imagination. The other two types of creativity, synthetic and associative thinking, are less obvious, but just as important in fostering creative growth.
Convergent thinking is the type of logical, analytical thinking that most people associate with intelligence. It involves breaking a problem down into its component parts and then solving them systematically.
Divergent thinking is freer and more abstract; it’s characterized by “thinking outside the box.” Divergent thinking involves coming up with wild and unusual ideas and making connections between different concepts.
Associative thinking involves making connections between seemingly unrelated things.
Finally, synthetic thinking involves combining different ideas or objects to create something new – a process often described as “putting two and two together.”
Convergent Thinking Is the Ability to Find a Single Solution to a Problem After Considering All Possible Options
You can think of convergent thinking as the opposite of divergent thinking. Whereas in divergent thinking you often consider many different solutions to a problem, in convergent thinking you focus on one particular solution.
This type of creative thinking requires logical reasoning and is important for any type of scientific or mathematical inquiry where there’s only one correct answer to each question posed (as opposed to multiple possibilities).
The ability to think convergently helps people quickly analyze large amounts of information to identify patterns or trends that can help them find solutions faster than if they tried all possible solutions instead!
The goal of convergent thinking is to put all of your creative energy into a single solution rather than multiple different ideas.
Convergent creativity is more common in our everyday lives. While you may need divergent creativity when brainstorming to find new ways of doing things, you’ll likely use convergent creativity to put the plan into action.
Convergence focuses on one idea and selects the best answer from a limited number of possibilities.
Some examples of convergent thinking are:
- Asking for directions when you’re lost.
- Defining a word by looking it up in the dictionary.
- Solving mathematical problems with an algorithm or formula.
Divergent Creativity Is When You Come Up With Multiple Solutions to a Problem
Divergent thinking is the kind of creativity most people think of when they hear the word “creative.”
Divergent creativity means that someone comes up with multiple solutions to a problem. This type of creativity occurs in brainstorming sessions and other forms of idea generation.
It allows people to make many connections between ideas, which helps in finding creative solutions.
This type of creative thinking is thought to take advantage of the unique way people see the world and interpret experiences. It’s important for solving problems, even if the ideas aren’t always practical or feasible.
Divergent thinking is the opposite of convergent and completely different from what most people think of when they think of “critical thinking.” But it’s just as important.
Divergent thinkers focus on creating possibilities – they’re comfortable in situations that involve finding new solutions to unstructured problems. These people are good at thinking outside the box and imagining all possible solutions to a problem (and can’t commit to one until they’ve fully explored all options).
If you want to think divergently, try looking at things from a different perspective – ask yourself “What if?” or consider how other people might approach the same problem differently than you.
Give yourself permission to be creative!
Associative Creativity Is When You Make Connections Between Ideas That Wouldn’t Normally Be Connected
Associative creativity means that you make connections between ideas that wouldn’t normally be connected. This type of creativity comes naturally to most of us and is most commonly used in everyday life.
To think creatively and associatively, look for patterns in what you see around you. Compare them to other things you know and try to see how they’re connected on a deeper level, even if the connections aren’t immediately obvious.
Allow your imagination to think of all possible uses for an object or concept, letting your senses and knowledge guide you.
These are some ways you can strengthen your associative creativity:
- When you look closely at things, it’s easier for you to see similarities between them and connect those similarities to other things.
- Use your imagination to make connections that aren’t immediately obvious. The more associations we can make, the more likely we’re to connect two seemingly unrelated concepts.
Synthetic Creativity Is When You Create Something New From Existing Ideas
Synthetic creativity is when you create something new from existing ideas. When you combine things together, something unprecedented can emerge, and that’s synthetic creativity at its best.
There are many examples of how combining two or more different ideas has led to significant achievements in the world.
The Wright Brothers combined an airplane with a bicycle to be able to steer it, making them the first people to fly.
Synthetic creativity can also be used in other areas, such as business. Apple combined music players with phone technology, which became one of its most successful products: the iPhone!
In any creative work, there are two parts: Originality and utility. You can create something that no one has ever seen or done before. Or you can build on what others have done to create something better.
Think about how many works of art and music have been inspired by an artist’s heroes, or how many new technologies are based on earlier ones.
Other Terms Used to Describe Creative Processes
Lateral Thinking Is a Creative Process That Involves Looking at Things From a Different Perspective
Lateral thinking is a form of creative problem solving that involves finding unusual or unorthodox solutions.
If you’ve worked in the creative industry, lateral thinking is nothing new to you. This type of creative thinking is often encouraged at work and helps you solve problems and develop ideas.
Lateral thinking is different from convergent thinking, which uses given information to arrive at a correct solution through logical reasoning. In contrast, lateral thinking looks at situations from different angles and develops many possible solutions without judging them right away.
Examples of lateral thinking:
- If you can’t get funding for your big project, how can you achieve the same goals with the resources you have?
- If a software program doesn’t work the way it should, where can you get help to fix it?
- If your client rejected your proposal, how could you deliver the same benefits in a way that appeals to them more?
You probably, like most people, associate creativity with emotion. Artists are portrayed as moody and sensitive, working as a link between their emotional lives and the blank page or canvas in front of them.
But this idea of creativity is too simplistic. The truth is that artists can feel all kinds of emotions – some may be moodier than others, but all emotions have the potential to be creative.
Creativity is a complex process that occurs in different parts of your brain.
Emotional creativity comes from both conscious and unconscious processes – it can come from conscious effort (when you’re trying hard), or it can pop into your mind unprompted when you least expect it (the “Aha!” moment).
We’ll look at how scientists have studied this later in this article.
Creative observation is the art of noticing things that other people miss and then turning those observations into new ideas.
Take the camera, for example. In 1684, a man named Johann Zahn published the first written description of how a camera obscura (Latin for “darkroom”) worked. Zahn was an engineer, not a photographer. His interest in cameras grew out of his background knowledge of optics and his desire to understand light and its effects on vision.
He built an early version of what we know today as a pinhole camera, a small box with an opening on one side and translucent paper on the other. While he wasn’t responsible for inventing this technology, his curiosity about how it worked contributed to its refinement and to advances in other fields such as astronomy and architecture.
Creative observation isn’t just about looking at something more closely, but also about asking yourself why something looks the way it does and thinking about how it could be different.
Metacognition is an intellectual skill that refers to both your consciousness and your creative ability (or way of thinking).
Basically, it’s a conscious awareness of how you think. It can help you better understand why you react the way you do in certain situations. Applied to creativity, metacognition provides insight into what environments best stimulate your creative mind and what obstacles impede the flow of ideas.
So if you learned many years ago that you need to eliminate all distractions in schoolwork to make progress, metacognition can help you figure out why that is.
In doing so, it’ll likely reveal that because of your innate learning style and habits, typical distractions trigger a negative mental response.
Perhaps even more interesting is that some people have success using creative thinking techniques – such as switching between different types of work- to overcome these seemingly hard-wired negative reactions.
Academic Approaches to Creativity
Academic studies of creativity date back to the 1950s. In the early studies, researchers typically defined creativity as the ability to generate ideas that are both novel (i.e., original, unexpected) and appropriate (i.e., useful, adaptable) to a given situation.
People often confuse creativity with an artistic ability or intelligence. Although people who’re creative may also have these skills and traits, they aren’t necessarily required to be considered creative.
Creativity is considered a relatively stable personality trait: a person who’s creative in one situation is likely to be creative in other situations. However, recent research suggests that this stability doesn’t apply to all situations, as there can be different types of creativity.
Keep in mind as you read the next sections of this article that people are usually a mix of creative types – not exclusively one or the other! But it can help you to know what type of creative person you might be, as a way to fuel your inspiration and activities.
The Classification of Creativity by Aren Dietrich
In a much-cited 2005 study, Aren Dietrich proposed four basic types of creativity:
Deliberate and Cognitive Creativity
The Conscious and Cognitive creative type occurs when you have a significant body of knowledge on one or more particular topics. It’s not just some unrelated thoughts brewing into something new – and novel!
The prerequisites for conscious and cognitive creativity are existing information that you can work with, an understanding of how that information can be put together in different ways- and that you successfully implement those ideas so that they’re fully developed and not just vague possibilities.
Deliberate and Emotional Creativity
Deliberate and Emotional creative types are more likely to be influenced in their work by how they’re feeling at the moment. These types prefer a quiet time to themselves, where they think, write in their diary when needed, etc. But that doesn’t mean they don’t make logical decisions when they need to!
People with Deliberate and Emotional creativity have “aha” moments when feelings and emotions take center stage instead of just concentrating.
Spontaneous and Cognitive Creativity
The basal ganglia, the brain’s dopamine store, are crucial for spontaneous and cognitive creativity. This is where our minds work when we allow them to operate without interference from conscious thought processes – giving these parts of us the opportunity to come up with innovative solutions or creative thoughts that we mightn’t otherwise have thought of.
Spontaneous and Emotional Creativity
The spontaneous and emotional creativity of artists like Picasso, Mozart, or even Bon Jovi is often a result of the amygdala. This part of our brain processes basic emotions such as joy, sadness, etc. When it’s at rest (i.e. not activated), innovative ideas can arise without any specific knowledge being required; suddenly an idea appears that wasn’t there before! This is typically called artistic creativity.
Creativity Archetypes for Writers
There are a number of archetypes that writers can use that relate to types of creativity. Here are some useful ones:
- The Rebel: You’re a rebel if you’ve ever felt the urge to defy convention or authority figures.
- The Outsider: You’re an outsider if you’ve ever felt different from your peers and stood up for your own interests rather than following the crowd.
- The Fool: You’re a fool in the best sense – if you can often laugh at yourself and take your missteps with humor.
- The Observer: You’re an Observer if you learn about the world by observing what’s happening around you, rather than tackling things head-on as they come at you.
- The Outcast: You’re an outcast when people exclude you from their activities for some reason and treat you like an outsider.
- The Hero: A hero is someone who works tirelessly to help others achieve their goals or overcome obstacles that stand in their way.
- The Inventor: An inventor is someone who sees problems as opportunities. Someone with this attitude will always be looking for ways to improve something existing or invent something completely new and original.
- The Caretaker: If you enjoy taking care of others, whether it’s by cooking delicious meals, cleaning up during flu season, or providing emotional support when you need it, this type might describe what makes your heart happy!
How to Find Your Creativity
How can you tap into your own creative genius? By following a few steps, you can find out what kind of creativity is inside you.
- First and foremost, listen to music. Research shows that listening to music boosts your brainpower, keeps you calm, and increases your productivity.
- Second, get inspired by others. There’s nothing wrong with a little constructive criticism, and it doesn’t hurt if it comes from the people around you.
- Third, use the right tools for your creative activity. It’s always better to use something that works best for your particular task than something that only works in certain situations or at certain times of the day or night.
- Fourth, get out of your comfort zone to get your creative juices flowing!
This can help you come up with new ideas or expand on existing ideas that you may have done before but need a new perspective due to outside influences such as other people’s opinions or even someone else’s ideas!
Be patient: creativity and applying a creative skill takes time, so don’t expect results overnight, even though we all know how hard it’s not to!