Trying to define creativity is as difficult as trying to define knowledge or love! As with knowledge, creativity has been studied for centuries in various fields: Religion, Philosophy, Cognitive Psychology, Business, Education, Neurosciences, etc.). The current regeneration of interest in creativity is linked to its important role in knowledge and creative economies, as well as to finding solutions to achieve sustainability in various domains (environment, society, economy). Creativity is the initial stage of the innovation process, knowing that today’s ideas might become tomorrow’s knowledge. Since innovation is becoming a strategic weapon for organizations to become or remain competitive, studies on how to make innovation happen and on how to create work environments supporting creativity are flourishing. One once said “With every pair of hands you hire, you get a free brain”, it is exactly what some companies are finally slowly realizing. Creative capabilities are in all of us, everyone has ideas and can find various ways to solve problems and improve things, no need to be mentally ill (like some geniuses were!). Some might need more encouragement, attention or recognition than others, but everyone should be able to contribute to the creative power of an organization, at all levels and in all activities (including accounting and finance, often considered as not eligible for creativity).
A simple definition of creativity could be, ‘the creation of something new which is useful (and relevant).’ But even such a simple definition raise some questions about what can be considered as “new” and what can be considered as “useful”! We all have our own vision of what can be categorized as “creative” and these visions are not always aligned. Further terms can be added to define some attributes of creative thinking, such as divergent, or lateral, or unusual, or unconventional, thinking. Furthermore, creativity can take place at different levels; individual, group, organizational and at each level the definition may vary. So should I continue trying to define something that cannot be defined? Maybe I will just demystify a couple of things regarding creativity. Creativity is rarely the act of an individual person, it often emanates from a group. Breakthrough ideas don’t happen suddenly (Eureka!), having a lot of ideas will increase the chance of having a highly novel idea (quantity will lead to quality). Initial ideas are rarely novel enough. They often need to be incubated, rethought, and massaged before reaching a high degree of novelty. Tools and methods can be used to crack creativity (individually and by group). These tools range from being very simple as “forcing relationships between the attributes of our problem and the attributes of a random word or object or animal”, to very advanced and sophisticated approaches like TRIZ which is used to solve problems by relying on previously known knowledge. To be creative one has to take risks and to step outside one’s comfort zone. Habits, routines, stereotypes must be set aside. One must learn to unlearn and to re-learn. This is easier said than done, but these are some of the requirements to really start thinking outside the box!
Bangkok University was the first university in Thailand to realize the importance that creativity will play in the life (personal and professional) of its students once they graduate. Therefore Bangkok University, under the leadership of Mr. Petch Osathanugrah (the Chief Creative Officer of Bangkok University and the Chairman of the Executive Board), decided to place creativity at the center of its mission:
“Bangkok University is a leading ‘Creative University’ with the mission to produce creative graduates with an entrepreneurial spirit for the global creative economy”