Creativity involves the development of original ideas that transcend the existing technology to produce something new and useful. Creativity is the ability to provide a new perspective or to develop a new product that causes fundamental changes in society. Some examples are the invention of the electric light bulb, the bacterial theory of disease, and the invention of the telephone.
What is creativity?
Creativity has two important elements: originality and social value. There are many ways of achieving originality. You can take several objects and arrange them in some particular way. Although your arrangement of objects may be unique, it may not serve any useful purpose and it cannot be considered creative. If those same objects are arranged to make a radio, a blender or a gadget that has some useful function, then it can be said to have social value. The best test of creativity is if the gadget is a new invention that is desired by the public. Creativity is not limited to physical objects; it can also apply to ideas for new processes or new ways of doing things. The bacterial theory of disease did not invent anything new, but it changed the way that we behave. We now lead healthier lives because we wash our hands before eating and because we understand that cooking our food kills bacteria that could make us sick.
There is a saying that necessity is the mother of invention. This is because we generally come up with new solutions when we are forced to solve a problem. Some people believe that creativity is innate, but perhaps only 20% is due to genetics and 80% is due to the environment. When faced with a problem, a person who is curious and inquisitive will be more likely to solve a problem when he or she is also determined and persistent. A person who sees the problem and takes no steps toward solving it will not come up with a solution.
Inventions are of two types: incremental or disruptive. An incremental invention improves an existing product without changing its basic form or function. Using a harder metal for a knife will improve its cutting ability, but the function of the knife will remain the same. A disruptive invention completely changes how a task is accomplished. The use of the typewriter changed the way in which business letters were produced. The electric light eliminated the candles and oil lamps that were used before. Most great inventions disrupt our way of doing things. People living in cities today have never had to saddle a horse because now we use gasoline-propelled vehicles for transportation. The automobile changed the way that we travel.
Ways of improving creativity.
While it is not possible to become smarter, it is possible to use our mental and physical capacity more efficiently to work toward a goal. Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb and the phonograph was quoted as saying "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." There is a lot of hard work in taking a good idea and developing it into something that is really useful and practical. Sometimes, this process requires trial and error. By analyzing how an experiment fails, it is possible to identify the parts that need improvement, and it may possible to find a workable solution through successive corrections.
There are two ways of approaching a problem: vertical thinking and lateral thinking. Vertical thinking involves delving deeply into the problem to learn as much as possible about ways of solving it, whereas lateral thinking looks at the problem from different points of view, including how to avoid it. Sometimes the solutions can come in unexpected ways. In the 1950s, the telephone companies worried that the increasing cost of copper wires was going to pose great problems for the installation of new lines, but the invention of the laser and fiber optics eliminated the use of copper for the transmission of telephone signals.
Maintain a positive attitude.
There is nothing worse for creativity than undermining your own efforts. If you don't think that you can accomplish something, you definitely will not. Negativity and lack of faith in yourself can be your own worst enemy. When confronted with failure, you cannot just resign yourself. You have to learn from your mistakes and try something different. If you don't know enough about a subject, then learn more about it so that you can understand it better.
The principles of maintaining an optimistic outlook also apply to group projects. When working in a group, sometimes an individual will say that the goals cannot be accomplished. This tends to paralyze the whole group and failure is the only outcome. The efforts of a group have to use the talents of every individual so that each person is a part of a dynamic cooperating group. This is usually not accomplished by an autocratic assignment of tasks, but by coaxing individuals to volunteer to solve the parts of the problem with which they are most familiar. The accomplishments toward the goal should be evaluated in periodic meetings to discuss the progress of the tasks and the problems encountered.
Problem solving requires analysis, logical thinking, synthesis of ideas, awareness of the goals and persistence. Here is a list of some things to keep in mind when you are trying to solve a problem.
Practical solutions to a problem should be useful and viable. The evaluation of ideas can be done by ranking their utility, the extent to which they can be accomplished, their aesthetics, their cost, and the time required to implement them.