The age-old question of where creativity (or creation more
generally) comes from and what it is has become something of a
modern obsession. Pick up any newspaper, read any job application,
any company's mission statement or (if you fancy) any post on
dating websites and there it is! Creativity is wanted, desired,
required, shown, cultivated, etc.etc. But what IS IT actually?
Nobody can tell.
And this is because, just like many other abstract notions that
we often use in daily life, the scientific definition becomes
almost irrelevant. We operate with more or less overlapping
'implicit' definitions of creativity and, even for one and the same
person, its meaning can change from one context to the next. In a
sense this is creativity turning onto itself, constant re-creation
and liberation from the constraints of science and its systems of
Creativity is a trait. Creativity is an ability. Creativity is
an aptitude. Creativity is an attitude. Creativity is in the
person. Creativity is in the object. Creativity is a social
construction... What else?
For me creativity is all and none of the above. And not because
it takes the appearance of a beast with a thousand heads (although
some artists claim being consumed by such a monstrosity).
Creativity seems to me to actually be arelationship. The
connections that bring together person and object, creator and
audience, aptitudes and creative work, social construction and the
materiality of a 'real', tangible object. The space 'in-between'
person, object, others and wider environment. This is the layer of
Being a relationship, creativity escapes precise definition. It
is a relational term: not in the person, not in the object, not in
the audiences. It constitutes the bonds between these three
instances of a wider network.
And this is why creativity tests - the common arms and legs of
creativity research - cannot take us very far. They embed
creativity in the object as if it would exist within the 10, 20, 30
answers a person gives. Then they 'transport' it from object to
person and say something about the person taking the test. This
'verdict' is based on a comparison between that person's
performance and standards coming out of testing hundreds, sometimes
thousands of other people.
So? Is it there where creativity begins and ends? On a piece of
Understood as a relationship, creativity is both in the action
of the creator and that of the perceiver. Evaluating a 'creative'
object is always a reconstruction of that object. An act of giving
it meaning. And just as meaning is created in the relationship
between people, so is creativity: the 'engine' behind the
construction of 'new' meanings.
Where does this leave creativity and marketing? Well, according
to the above, creativity is not in the firm, the consumer, the
service, or the brand. It is in the ways in which all these
'actors' (and more!) relate to each other. That is why
(re)searching creativity has to begin with a study of
relationships. Including your own relationship, as a researcher,
with this intricate network and its thousands of (smiley)