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« Questions we'll be asking ourselves before retirement? | Main | The three attributes of creativity »

Quotes from From Creativity by Csikszentmihalyi (Part 1)

I always list Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book Flow as one of the books I've found most influential on me as a professional.

Now his book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, while not in the same league, is giving me a great deal of insight into the "Big C" creative process. Here are some bits from the first part of his book that caught my eye:

... a genuinely creative accomplishment is almost never the result of a sudden insight, a lightbulb flashing on in the dark, but comes after years of hard work.

… creative ideas vanish unless there is a receptive audience to record and implement them.

There is no way to know whether a thought is new except with reference to some standards, and there is no way to tell whether it is valuable until it passes social evaluation. Therefore, creativity does not happen inside people’s heads, but in the interaction between a person’s thoughts and a sociocultural context. It is a systemic rather than an individual phenomenon.

Who is right: the individual who believes in his or her own creativity, or the social milieu that denies it?

We have seen that creativity with a capital C, the kind that changes some aspect of the culture, is never only in the mind of a person.

Today many American corporations spend a great deal of money and time trying to increase the originality of their employees, hoping thereby to get a competitive edge in the marketplace. But such programs make no difference unless management also learns to recognize the valuable ideas among the many novel ones, and then finds ways of implementing them.

In order to survive, cultures must eliminate most of the new ideas their members produce. Cultures are conservative, and for good reason. No culture could assimilate all the novelty people produce without dissolving into chaos.

For though it is true that behind every new idea or product there is a person, it does not follow that such persons have a single characteristic responsible for the novelty.

Luck is without doubt an important ingredient in creative discoveries.

Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals.

The personality of an individual who is to do something creative must adapt itself to the particular domain, to the conditions of a particular field, which vary at different times and from domain to domain.

The point is that you cannot assume the mantle of creativity just by assuming a certain personality style.

Creative individuals tend to be smart, yet also naive at the same time. How smart they actually are is open to question.

...being intellectually brilliant can also be detrimental to creativity. Some people with high IQs get complacent, and, secure in their mental superiority, they lose the curiosity essential to achieving anything new.

Convergent thinking is measured by IQ tests, and it involves solving well-defined, rational problems that have one correct answer. Divergent thinking leads to no agreed-upon solution. It involves fluency, or the ability to generate a great quantity of ideas; flexibility, or the ability to switch from one perspective to another; and originality in picking unusual associations of ideas. These are the dimensions of thinking that most creativity tests measure and that most workshops try to enhance.

Great art and great science involve a leap of imagination into a world that is different from the present. The rest of society often views these new ideas as fantasies without relevance to current reality. And they are right. But the whole point of art and science is to go beyond what we now consider real, and create a new reality. At the same time, this “escape” is not into a never-never land. What makes a novel idea creative is that once we see it, sooner or later we recognize that, strange as it is, it is true.

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