What makes a person creative? This is one of the questions that researchers in the field of creativity have been trying to solve and understand. In this paper I will compare the two theorists, Teresa Amabile and J.P. Guilford. Each has proposed a model of creativity in order to understand exactly what creativity is and how it works. The hope in doing so is that understanding how creativity functions will stimulate more creative thinking and problem solving. Guilford was the first to identify creativity as a type of intelligence and sought to identify common characteristics and cognitive abilities of known creative individuals and promote the development of those characteristics in order to help stimulate creative thinking. Amabile categorizes these characteristics and cognitive abilities as creative-relevant skills; one of four components in her model of creativity. Amabile believes that while these skills are needed, they need to work with domain-relevant skills, task motivation, and the social environment of the problem-solver. The two models have commonalities as well as well as differences. It is my hope to explain each, while comparing the two, and applying this knowledge to my own work.
J.P. Guilford developed a model for creativity based on the idea that creativity is a form of intelligence. Until Guilford released his research, psychologists were under the belief that creativity was a byproduct of intelligence, linking the two in a dependent relationship where high IQ means high creativity and vice versa. In his psychological model called “Structure of Intellect” Guilford used a factor analytic technique to separate intelligence into two forms of thinking: divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking is the ability to access memory, from which one can derive numerous unique answers to a single problem; convergent thinking is the ability to come up with 1 correct answer for each question. (Explaining Creativity, Sawyer) Once Guilford developed this model he began to search for ways that he could measure divergent thinking in individuals.
The test he developed is now known as Guilford’s Alternative Uses Task. The task is simple, or seemingly so: list as many possible uses for a common object. (i.e. a paperclip) Once completed test takers were scored on four components: originality, fluency, flexibility, and elaboration. Guilford found that these four components and some others are commonly seen in creative individuals. Guilford recognizes that in order to solve problems, one must first be able to articulate the deficiencies in common products or in social institutions. Fluency is the ability to think well and effortlessly. Fluency can be further broken down into four types: word, associational, expressional, and ideational fluency. Flexibility of thinking is another characteristic that exists in Guilford’s model. Flexibility can be further broken down into two categories: spontaneous flexibility and adaptive. Spontaneous flexibility is the ability to produce a great variety of ideas; Adaptive is the ability to generalize requirements of a problem to find a solution. Originality is the ability to from associations between elements that are remote from one another logically. The ability to elaborate is being able to fill in details given a general scheme. Additionally to these four traits creative types often also show the ability to redefine uses for common objects, are able to accept some uncertainty in conclusions when rigid categories are not being used. It is also useful for the individual to have an interest in both divergent and convergent thinking. (Measuring Creativity) In order to try and raise creativity levels individuals go through training programs that teach them to have these characteristics. However, this does not always mean the person becomes more creative for having these characteristics.
Teresa Amabile proposed her own model of creativity based on two underlying assumptions. The first assumption is that there is a continuum from ordinary levels of creativity in everyday life to the highest levels of creativity in the historically significant products of the arts and sciences. The second assumption being that there are different degrees of creativity in the works of any single individual, even within one domain. In the componential model there are four pieces that all work together to influence creative thinking. These four components: domain-relevant skills, creativity-relevant processes, task motivation, and the social environment of the creator are all crucial pieces in creative problem solving. Domain- relevant skills include knowledge, technical abilities, intelligence, and talent in the domain the individual is working in. Creativity- relevant processes include cognitive ability and style as well as take personality characteristics into consideration. These personality traits include independence, risk taking, flexibility, skills in generating ideas and disciplined work habits. One of the most important components of Amabile’s creativity model is intrinsic motivation to complete a task. In simplest form intrinsic motivation is passion. The motivation to undertake a task or solve a problem because it is interesting, personally challenging, or satisfying.
The last component of this model is the social environment. In order to stimulate creativity the work environment must encourage creative behavior. Creativity can easily be hindered by negative criticism toward new ideas and ways of thinking. Creativity can also be hindered by a conservative, low-risk attitude among management. Excessive time pressure is also a detrimental factor to the creative process. In Amabile’s model these components influence the creative process which consists of several sub-processes: analyzing and articulating the exact nature of the problem at hand, gathering and reactivating relevant information, generating ideas, testing the validity of a chosen solution, and communicating the solution to others. The four components work together with the creative process. The process itself is not concrete; these sub-processes may occur in any order, and may be repeated until one of two outcomes occurs: success or failure. (Amabile, Componential Theory of Creativity)
Now that we have taken a look at both Guilford and Amabile’s models we can see how they are alike. Both Guilford and Amabile attribute creativity to certain cognitive abilities. I feel as though Amabile’s model is almost an expansion of Guildford’s model. Guildford’s model mainly focuses on viewing creative thinking as a type of intelligence. Guilford suggested characteristics observed in known creative individuals could be used to measure creativity in others. As well as help promote these characteristics in people to stimulate more creative thinking. Amabile’s componential model of creativity also verifies this as one of the four components that aid in the creative process, creativity relevant processes. It is from here I believe Amabile has added to the understanding with the other three components of her model.
While Guilford and Amabile’s models have some overlapping qualities, there is much to be said about the differences between them. Guildford theorized that intelligence can be broken up into two types of problem solving: divergent and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking is the one associated with creative thinking. Guilford hypothesized that if divergent thinking could be measured and tested, and then one could find a way to use this insight to boost creativity levels. Amabile however, breaks creativity down into four components, only three of which are from within the individual, and one from outside the individual. Already we begin to see a critical difference in the two models: Guilford modeling creativity as happening solely because of cognitive abilities and traits an individual possess, while Amabile suggests that cognitive abilities are necessary but other components need to be happening as well. The components not included in Guilford’s model: domain-relevant skills, task motivation, and the social environment. Amabile believes that while creative-relevant processes are important to creative thinking, one will not generate truly unique and valuable solutions without the others. Amabile is also creating her model under the assumption that everyone has the potential to be creative, it is just a matter of recognizing your own form of creativity.
What makes a person creative? Based on my findings in Guilford and Amabile’s models I believe there are many factors that lead to creative thinking in any individual. There is no such thing as a creative person, in fact we all possess the ability to be creative. Without even realizing it everyone exercises creativity in everyday tasks all the time. Through looking at these models I have reached the conclusion that these two models are related. Guilford explores creativity through the scope of intelligence. From here it appears as though Amabile adapted and expanded on Guilford’s findings. Amabile proposed her componential model of creativity which includes many of the characteristics Guilford talks about in his findings. These characteristics fall under creative-relevant processes in the componential model. Amabile also talks of three other components that aid in the creative process: domain-relevant skills, intrinsic task motivation, and a work environment that is nurturing of creative thinking.
I chose these two theorist to research because the are familiar to me because I use the ideas from these models in my everyday work here at Drexel. As a graphic design student I am fairly familiar with using Amabile’s creative process. Before learning of Amabile and her work I was already using a form of her creative process without knowing it. When designing for any project a good portion of the work is doing research and gathering data that is relevant to what I am designing for. Currently I am working on a family of packages that contain different types of pasta. Our first step was to select our pastas, from there we did research about the pastas we chose so that we could fill our memory banks with all relevant information we may use in our design. Once our information gathering was done we moved into generating ideas in the form of sketches in the forms of drawings and paper mock-ups. Where we get to exercise creativity is in how we use the information we gathered. We then begin to test the validity of our solutions through the use of our peers and professors as well as using our own personal judgment. Many times we end up recycling through the process to reach the best form of the solution we have devised. I also chose Guilford to research so that I could better understand the cognitive process that go into the creative-relevant skills Amabile discusses in her componential model.
Amabile, Teressa M. Componential Theory of Creativity. Harvard Business School. Harvard Business School, n.d. Web. .
“Measuring Creativity.” All Psychology Careers. AllPsychologyCareers.com, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2013. .
Sawyer, R. Keith. Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. Print.