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About ideas and creativity

Creativity is often related to thinking of novel and appropriate ideas, as compared to innovation, which in this context focuses rather on the successful implementation of those ideas either within an organization or into the market (see, for example, Trott, 2008).

As Albert (1983; in Mumford & Gustafson, 1988) pointed out, the quality of human life is greatly influenced by the creative contributions of certain individuals. Creativity has often been characterized as a multifaceted construct as it can be recognized in many ways. Depending on the context, creativity may refer to a human ability, a process, or a resulting product.

Creativity as a human ability. Historically, this was the first scientific view on creativity and dates back to the 18th century when researchers became interested in the ability and background of individuals who were responsible for extraordinary achievements. Since then, discussions have continued as to whether creative behaviour is a specific ability or the combination of several traits. Another perspective is to regard creativity as an attribute that someone may have to a greater or lesser extent. Contrary to the assumption that prevailed when research into genius began - when creative human ability was attributed to genetics - present research concludes instead that everyone has the potential to be creative - but to varying degrees, depending on a multitude of personal and environmental factors.

Creativity as process. The process characteristics of creativity - or, put simply, 'the creative process', became early a topic of interest to researchers, but also to writers and artists. Wallas (1926) proposed four distinctive phases, namely: preparation, incubation, illumination and verification. Schuler and Görlich (2007) introduced another process model that integrates previous research and extends it to core phases of innovation. The eight stages are as follows: (1) problem finding (discovering, identifying and defining relevant problems); (2) information search (knowledge and retrieval of relevant information); (3) concept combination (reorganization of existing categories, finding links and analogies); (4) idea generation (ideation, characterized by originality, fluency, flexibility); (5) solution development (translation of the original idea in a functional solution); (6) idea evaluation (comparison of different solutions, finding pros and cons); (7) adaptation/customization (redesign, fitting of the original idea) and (8) implementation (communication, persuasion, integration). Although it is depicted as a sequential model (as most others are as well), all stages must be understood as being interdependent to a certain degree. Often it is necessary to return to a previous stage in order to achieve an adequate (product) solution. While stages (1) to (4) represent the classic phases of 'creativity' (developing ideas in response to a perceived problem), stages (5) to (8) relate especially to 'innovativeness' (successful realization/commercialization).

Creativity as a product. For a product to be creative, it has to be new. Newness is closely associated with the term originality. Moreover, usefulness is often attributed to creativity as well, in the sense of a social value. Over the years many adjectives and situational factors were applied to creativity. Jackson and Messick (1964), for example, used unusualness, appropriateness, transformation and condensation as criteria for assessing creativity. Whereas unusualness and appropriateness of the creative achievement may be used synonymously with originality and usefulness, respectively, transformation relates to the extent to which common barriers and limitations are overcome, and condensation to the complexity bundled in the (simple) problem solution.

The notion that new, successful products are produced as a result of someone's bright idea is a myth, and not based on reality. Creativity does not arrive like a bolt from the blue. The true creators of our time, for example Edison, Curie, Einstein and Picasso, all worked very hard and in a focused way to bring their big ideas to life. So don't let yourself be fooled into believing that a genius idea will come on its own one day!

Definition: Product idea