MRJ Examines Becoming Creative

  • Jan 3, 2023
  • Lisa DaVia Rubenstein and Krista Stith, Guest Editors
Mensa Research Journal Vol. 53, No. 3 cover

WE ARE THRILLED to bring you this special issue, “Becoming Creative,” which includes multiple studies examining how individuals can increase their creative contributions. Many prominent leaders and educators believe creativity is important yet question whether it can be defined, assessed, and/or developed. However, the creativity research field has made incredible progress in addressing each of these questions (Plucker, 2017). Of course, nuanced debates persist over the definition of creativity (Simonton, 2012), yet the creativity research field has come to a general consensus. Creativity is often defined as the interaction among aptitude, process, and environment resulting in a product or idea that is both novel and useful within a specific context (Plucker et al., 2004; Runco & Jaeger, 2012). In short, all innovative contributions require creative thinking.

While the MRJ tends to curate work related to intelligence, creativity adds an important dimension to this discussion. This issue’s collection of articles provides encouraging evidence that creativity can be facilitated and enhanced using specific strategies. These articles employ multiple research methodologies and assessments to demonstrate how various creative thinking processes may influence creative outcomes. They can be synthesized to provide specific guidance for those who wish to be more creative in their life and work.

Lesson #1: Becoming creative requires a general commitment to exploring new ideas and pursuing new experiences.

One of the most consistent findings in creativity research is that creative individuals demonstrate high levels of openness. This has been replicated across domains, ages, and experience levels. Being open can be purposefully cultivated, and in this issue of the MRJ, several articles present specific factors influencing the relationship between openness and creativity.

Ishiguro and Okada (2020) describe how experiences with art and awe can enhance creative thinking. First, in a theoretical exploration, Ishiguro and Okada (2020) describe the dual-focus method of art viewing in which artists are alternating from evaluating others’ artworks and reflecting upon how those pieces can influence their own work. While this may seem mostly related to artists, it is not a stretch to see how this theory applies to other domains. For example, scientists also can implement a dual-focus method, whereby they are consistently alternating frames between appreciating and being inspired by existing work and reflecting upon how it can be used to enhance their own work. While not included in this issue of the MRJ, interested persons may wish to read “Awe Enhances Creative Thinking: An Experimental Study” (Chirico et al., 2018, Creative Research Journal 30:2). The team took a more empirical approach and induced awe by providing participants with a virtual reality experience in a beautiful forest, empirically demonstrating that experience led to increased creative thinking (i.e., fluency, flexibility, and elaboration). These articles suggest if you want to enhance your creative output, you should be seeking inspiring pieces of work and awe-inducing experiences.

Beyond seeking inspiration and experiences, research findings demonstrate that other people can facilitate (or inhibit) openness. Professors and employee supervisors are good examples of people who can play a pivotal role in this regard. For example, Zhang et al. (2020) demonstrate how employees’ openness is more related to creative outcomes when their supervisors’ expectations are high, and further, how employees’ creativity is negatively affected by close monitoring. While these studies may initially suggest one’s creativity is influenced by external factors, they also underscore the importance of surrounding yourself with those teachers and supervisors who provide opportunities for risk-taking and high expectations.

Lastly, we encourage readers to commit to learning more of creative identity through the lens of other cultures. In Meloche and Clothey (2021), the researchers investigate non-Western and minority ethnic cultures’ recognitions of creativity. This exploration of culturally constructed creativity provides a critical contribution to research.

Lesson #2: Becoming creative in problem solving includes the incorporation of several specific strategies.

The first lesson simply sets the stage for creative work, but this second lesson provides specific strategies when creators are in the middle of the creative slog. Creative production is not always easy, magical, or pleasant, but there are specific approaches creators can use to push past creative blocks. The creative process can be summarized using three generic processes: (a) problem construction (i.e., identifying the problem or opportunity), (b) idea generation (i.e., developing multiple ideas or approaches to address the opportunity), and (c) idea evaluation/implementation (i.e., selecting an idea or combination of ideas to test and implement). Challenges can arise in each of these processes, and further, each process can be enhanced through specific strategies.

The Leone et al. (2022) article describes all three processes and how leaders can support teams as they progress through the creative problem-solving process. For example, they suggest leaders should identify the constraints and givens for their team in the problem construction phase. McIntosh et al. (2019), Rubenstein et al. (2019), and Harms et al. (2020), provide specific strategies for individuals to use throughout the creative process. First, McIntosh et al. (2019) demonstrate the importance of both positive and negative forecasting (i.e., predicting what might happen under positive and negative circumstances) when developing a restaurant plan, finding those who considered both negative and positive forecasts produced more creative plans. Rubenstein et al. (2019) explore the effects of multiple strategies on idea generation and selection, finding when students planned for and consider multiple perspectives, they generate more plentiful, useful, and original solutions. Finally, Harms et al. (2020) empirically demonstrate how problem construction and information searching influence creative outcomes, suggesting those who spend a longer time considering varied sources in depth are likely to generate more creative outcomes.

Collectively, all these articles provide insight on how anyone can become more creative. We hope you enjoy their different methods and assessments, and most importantly, we hope you implement some of these approaches in your own life to become more creative.

Lisa DaVia Rubenstein, Ph.D., and Krista M. Stith, Ph.D., were guest editors for this issue. Dr. Rubenstein is a Professor of Educational a Professor of Educational Psychology at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., where she currently directs the M.S. and Ph.D. programs in educational psychology. Dr. Stith is is the Director of the Center for Gifted Studies and Talent Development at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., working extensively in high-ability programming and STEM/STEAM education.

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Published three times yearly, the Mensa Research Journal highlights scholarly articles and recent research related to intelligence from a diverse selection of nationally and internationally esteemed authors. Learn more about the MRJ and subscribe today.