Can we codify creativity? Within these few words are a number of principles that must be identified and resolved before we can really answer the question.
The first question is, what is creativity? What are we trying to codify?
One useful definition of creativity is that it is problem identification and idea generation. Another is the production of a number of diverse and novel ideas. Yet another is the engagement in a number of diverse and novel behaviours.
The second question is, can we measure creativity?
This is necessary, as any codifying must result in measurable change. From the above, we can see that creativity can be measured on a number of levels such as: a) we can measure the number of ideas produced and their diversity and novelty, b) the frequency of idea production over periods, c) the frequency of divergent and novel behaviours engaged in over periods or d) we can ask people to rate themselves as being creative before and after training.
The third question is, what do we mean by codify?
It means to code or organise into a systematic process. From the above, it becomes clear that codifying creativity is possible if we produce systematic processes that produce measurable change in the ways mentioned above.
Now onto the real question then. Can we codify creativity?
Well, yes. If we just set out a number of processes that produce measurable improvement in the ways described above.
There are an infinite number and each produces it's own set of results. By combining, mixing and rearranging, different results occur.
Simple psychological games, such as role-play, can be used. In the Journal of Psychology, businessmen were asked to rate themselves on creativity and they ranked themselves very low. Then, after asking them to pretend they were happy-go-lucky hippies, they re-rated themselves much higher.
Lateral thinking techniques can be used, where the point is to generate ideas without purpose, for the sake of generating ideas, follow seemingly nonsensical pathways and so forth. This simply maximises the quality and quantity of the idea pool.
Linking techniques can be used. Where everyday, novel and diverse objects are used to create connections with the endeavour.
What I have just done is codify creativity. Ask any group to come up with ideas related to a particular problem and they will produce a set quantity. Use the above three (each contains an infinite number of possibilities) and the group will produce more creative output.
Using and extrapolating the above principles (and using more precise techniques), I can, for example, codify processes and structures that make it possible to complete a screenplay very quickly.
The above is an incredibly general example, but you get the idea. And this small case begins to demonstrate how creativity can be made measurable, useable and tangible.
This topic is covered in depth in the MBA dissertation on Managing Creativity & Innovation, which can be purchased (along with a Creativity and Innovation DIY Audit, Good Idea Generator Software and Power Point Presentation) from http://www.managing-creativity.com. You can also receive a regular, free newsletter by entering your email address at this site.
Kal Bishop, MBA
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Kal Bishop MBA is a management consultant based in London, UK. He has consulted in the visual media and software industries and for clients such as Toshiba and Transport for London. He has led Improv, creativity and innovation workshops, exhibited artwork in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and written a number of screenplays. He is a passionate traveller. He can be reached on http://www.managing-creativity.com