What is creativity? It depends on your perspective. We examined originality and creative thinking from a legal, psychological, biological, and inspirational point of view.
Recently, American Airlines made headlines when its brandmark was rejected for a copyright on the grounds of lacking creativity. “A mere simplistic arrangement of non-protectable elements does not demonstrate the level of creativity necessary to warrant protection,” wrote Catherine Zaller Rowland, senior adviser to the register of copyrights.
So what does it take to legally demonstrate creativity? U.S. copyright law requires the work to pass the “threshold of originality.”
The work must reflect an author’s or originator’s personality, but it doesn’t have to be something that never existed before. Words, short phrases, titles, slogans, familiar symbols and designs, and variations on typography, lettering, or coloring are considered inherently unoriginal and can’t be copyrighted. They can, however, be combined in creative ways and receive legal protection.
Psychologically, creativity is all about associative thinking. According to Psychology Today, “Associative thinking occurs when all avenues are open in your brain and your mind, and you allow your mind to ‘free associate,’ or automatically link up ideas, thoughts, observations, sensory input, memory of existing knowledge, and your subconscious.” The folks at Yale agree that creative thinking is about association or the ability to connect currently unrelated ideas.
You can improve your creativity and associative skills by giving yourself permission to daydream and letting your mind wander. Instead of rejecting thoughts that aren’t directly related to the task at hand, allowing seemingly intrusive thoughts to enter can result in your mind making new, more creative connections.
Many of us were told that the right hemisphere of the brain generates creativity and, thus, you must be right-brained to be a creative person. Scientific American reports that our concept of right- and left-brained people isn’t accurate. The creative process, from idea to execution, involves many areas of the brain. Areas of both hemispheres work as a team to create.
Of course, what you’re creating affects which parts of your brain get involved. Most commonly though, three main networks are involved in creative thinking: the executive attention network, the imagination network, and the salience network.
For a less technical perspective, let’s look at how several creative minds define creativity.
“Starting with nothing and ending up with something. Interpreting something you saw or experienced and processing it so it comes out different than how it went in.” – Henry Rollins
“Giving the world something it didn’t know it was missing.” – Daniel Pink
“Living in possibility and abundance rather than limitation and scarcity.” – CJ Lyons
“Creativity (n): a word people use when they want to sound smart talking about a really abstract subject. Me? I prefer to avoid abstractions.” – Jon Morrow
“Just making something. It might be something crummy or awkward or not ready for prime time. If you make something, you are creative.” – Sonia Simone
“Seeing patterns that others don’t and effectively communicating them.” – David Meerman Scott
“Copying smarter.” – Lisa Barone
How do you define creativity? Share with us in the comments.