What is creativity?

Yesterday, Gosia Goclowska led a ‘creativity booster’-workshop at our offices. Gosia is a research fellow at the University of Amsterdam looking into how people’s social environment and personality influence their creative accomplishments. An interesting group from different departments, including R&D, Operations, Marketing, Sales and HR participated in this session. Because of the engagement of every individual participant, an unexpected amount of information and experiences were discussed.

Experiences with creativity

In order to get a better understanding of the expectations and reflection on their own creativity, Gosia challenges every individual to talk about their personal creativity and if they wanted to improve this. Examples of creativity were shared in different forms, ranging from unscrewing rusty screws with pliers, making your own furniture (and hangers) to creative copywriting and researching contacts.

It was remarkable to learn that nearly each and every one would like to improve their own creativity Interestingly, especially the developers did not think of themselves as being creative, because what they do is mostly logical and analytical. You can create something, without being creative.

What is creativity?

The definition of creativity, according to Gosia, is that it has to be both useful and novel, with useful meaning that it adds or solves something. Examples she shared were prosthetic blades or the atom bomb.

Then, Gosia reversed the question and asked us to form groups of 2-3 and come up with factors that stimulate creativity by discussing a number of statements and then presenting them to all participants.

Creativity Booster workshop Creativity Booster workshop


The four factors that stimulate creativity

All groups took a different approach to the ‘what is creativity’-poster, but extracted from all input come these four factors that stimulate creativity:

  1. Nature
  2. Nurture
  3. Freedom
  4. Motivation


  • IQ / Intelligence
  • Logic
  • Personality


  • Experiences
  • Openness to the new and unknown
  • Information
  • Guidelines


  • Willingness to take risks / openness to failure
  • Avoidance of tunnel vision
  • Influence of other people (positive or lack of negative)
  • Getting rid of inhibitions (alcohol and other stimulants)
  • Environmental factors


  • Self-actualisation
  • Impact of problem
  • Reward
  • Leitmotiv
  • Discipline

This, in turn, led to a discussion about the difference between the reason we do things, like making music, and the role of creativity. We agreed that creativity is about solving problems and it is not about why we do things. Creativity is a powerful means to fulfil our needs.

Six scientific insights about creativity

In the conclusive part of the workshop, Gosia shared six research findings and scientific insights about creativity.

1: Mindset

Believing that you can change, stimulates creativity.

2: Positive approach

Approaching success is better than avoiding failure.

3: Multitasking brings inspiration, mono-tasking contributes more to execution

In brainstorming you generate ideas by multitasking, and select ideas by monotasking.

4: Ego defense is the enemy of creativity

When contributing to a discussion, it is ok to get out of your comfort zone a bit, but speak from experience, not from eagerness alone.

5: Tired people in a hurry are unhappy and uncreative

6: Mindfulness

People who have a good awareness of their bodily states and emotions:

    1. act less on auto pilot
    2. regulate and adjust their behavior
    3. are better at identifying tiredness
    4. are better at regulating stress and anxiety
    5. are more creative

If individuals continuously need to prove their talent, this results in a negative impact on creativity and productivity. If a talent is regarded as a way to continuously improve the skill set, people are more creative and productive.

About the author

Written by Walter van der Scheer.

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