Creativity and innovation
Creativity and innovation

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Creativity and innovation

1.2.1 Skill

Many people associate creativity with insight, and assume that this is caused by creative association – applying previously unrelated ideas or metaphors from one field to another. Archimedes offers a well-known example. While taking a bath, he suddenly realised that his irregularly shaped body displaced a measurable volume of water and that this principle would allow him to work out the irregular amount of gold in the king’s crown. Velcro offers another example of applying an idea from one field to another: it fastens two fabrics together as a prickly burr sticks to fabric. Studies of creative individuals reveal that they tend to possess a certain mental flexibility that allows them to think outside the box, withhold judgement, shift their perspective on a problem, redefine issues and tolerate ambiguity. In the late 1960s and 1970s Edward de Bono (1984) popularised the idea of training people in creative thinking skills like lateral thinking (illustrated in Chapter 7). This type of creativity training aims to break through mental barriers and increase mental flexibility to make it more likely that potentially useful insights are not missed. In this view, creativity is a skill that can be taught.The implication of this approach is that creativity is a transferable skill, a notion that is in keeping with the current policies that stress the acquisition of competencies as a route to learning (e.g. Godbout, 2000). While many trainers and politicians accept the idea that management competencies and creative problem-solving skills are transferable, researchers who have studied the genesis of ideas tend to take a different view – that the skill of mental flexibility is only part of the story.

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