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Speaking of Creativity

The demand for creativity as a staple of business operations has never been more broadly intense. So we assume that it is somehow in supply and in practice more than ever as well. Yet when we survey (e.g. as on LinkedIn) the ability to describe what it is, and therefore to know how to make it happen or find it, the common definition is as stubbornly elusive as the demand for it is intense.


The unresolved debate of "creativity" as a "problem" to solve is a performative ambiguity, more interested in philosophizing than in resolving. Both the ambiguity and the debate reveal a lack of clarity about what is present with creativity and what is absent without it, and finally what is still absent when it is present.


But clarity begins with ending the fuzzy language used to describe what it is and what it is like. From there fuzzy thinking can also be ended.


The simplest way to distinguish creativity is to recognize what is missing when it is NOT there. In a given situation, the evident INAbility to generate something new from what is there is precisely the lack of creativity. Creativity is the converse: the demonstrated CAPAbility to generate, in a given situation, something new from what is there. A possibility of opportunity.


Creativity is not supernatural and it isn't even ambiguous. It does not have to produce something that is absolutely unprecedented beyond all contexts. And it is just as possible from a sole independent Agent as it is from a co-operating group acting as an agent.


There are many things that may account for this capability being absent, including confusion, fear, ignorance, and bias. Whereas the fundamentals of its presence are pretty consistent: freedom, experimentation, curiosity, open mindedness, and enough knowledge to recognize significance independent of an agenda.


Creativity assumes a hospitable environment. We can say that a culture is fertile when it offers an ecology supportive of those fundamentals. But that is not the same as creativity being present. In creativity, there is always an agent, not just an environment. Possibility is a neutral binary. Potential is affirmative, because there is an agent.

We can say, further, that an agent is original when it is the recognized source of whatever exercised capability has generated what is new. Within the scope of that exercised capability is both the formulation of ideas and the formulation of method, but in a given situation, either one of those, or both together, count as originality. Originality does not exist outside of the ecology and context of the capability. Let's be clear.


Capability is a potential. Ability is an actual.


Capability can be cultivated, taught, and recruited. So can creativity.

And Creativity, like capability, is not a measured production output. Creations are measurable production outputs. Like capability, Creativity is not synonymous with any imposed degree of product value. Creativity is a prior condition of a way to pursue end value. There is no fundamental correlation between the level of creativity and the level of production value. Yet creativity, because it is an obtainable option, has independently intrinsic value. Production output has no value without an identified context establishing relevance.


Now, we drop the debates, because using what is clear is more interesting.

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