Types of Creativity & How They Work TogetherNatalia Persin
Some creatives use a paintbrush while others use musical instruments or coding software. Even with the same tools, ideas can take shape in radically different ways depending on who holds the tools.
Creativity takes many forms. Understanding how ideas can manifest themselves is key to successfully combining creatives on projects and teams. Taking the time to identify different creative styles will also foster more strategic work and give individuals space to express themselves in a more fulfilling way.
From both a team and culture perspective, leveraging different types of creativity is hugely advantageous. Read through this guide to find out everything you need to know about the types of creativity and how to organize creative teams.
What is Creativity?
Philosophers, psychologists, and cognitive scientists have pondered this question for ages. Like many other abstract human emotions and ideas, people have long wanted to isolate and see demonstrable instances of creativity.
And like those other abstract ideas, it has proven impossible to point out one particular synapse firing or location in the brain as the home of creativity. What scientists are able to say with some degree of confidence is that the frontal lobe is most likely responsible for some key aspects of creativity such as short-term memory.
However, there are also other parts of the brain that contribute to creative processes. The hippocampus is located in the temporal lobe on the side of your head behind the ears. It stores information about facts and experiences so you can retrieve them later.
The basal ganglia control motor control, motor memory, executive functions, emotional behavior, and behaviors important for habit formation such as reward signals and addiction. The basal ganglia are located deep within each side of the brain and play a huge role in all kinds of movement. So whether you use a keyboard, a basketball, or a camera to express your creativity, the basal ganglia are vitally important.
Finally, the brain also contains lots of white matter, which is the name given to the collection of nerve fibers located in the deep tissue of the brain. They’re covered in something called myelin sheaths to protect them and conduct electrical signals more effectively. Information transfer occurs in the white matter of the brain.
So is creativity the simple function of these neurological components, or is it something more complex? That’s a philosophical question that will have different answers depending on who you ask.
If we want to essentialize creativity the way we think of it in design thinking and similar approaches to problem-solving, though, we might summarize it as the invention and repeated recombination of different ideas and solutions. The way people categorize and pair bits of information with their existing skills is what produces their creative outputs.
Mediums of Creativity
The most common forms of creative work are sound, words, and images. Writers turn their inspiration into words on the page while musicians do the same for notes and painters and photographers coalesce their various ideas into images and paintings.
For people who want to know how to be creative, selecting between these mediums can be a challenge. Many who think of themselves as multimedia artists may have simply failed to specialize in the most effective way.
Working as a creative in the professional world brings in many more platforms for creativity. A spreadsheet or a complete piece of back-end coding are very common examples of work product that take lots of time and creative energy to produce.
If there’s anything creatives have learned from the internet age, it’s that there are many more mediums where humans can channel their creativity than we ever thought possible. UX/UI design has proven that problem-solving and the user journey are both ripe avenues for expression and novel approaches.
Is It Art?
One of the most common critiques of corporate work products and a common topic of debate for people across the creative industry is whether the end results of their endeavors qualify as art.
This is probably due to the separation of the high arts – like opera, classic painting, or theater – from everyday people. Within the last hundred years, working people had few if any opportunities to see artistic masterpieces, plays, or symphony performances. The internet has brought these kinds of works to a wider audience in many ways.
Another impact of the internet is that the concept of high art has been diminished. It’s almost old-fashioned at this point to think of a whole artistic medium as somehow outclassing another. Street photography, graffiti, postmodern painting, and stream-of-consciousness literature have all played their respective roles in making culture more accessible.
Technology has helped in this regard. YouTube and other streaming services allow many millions of people to watch performances and speeches for free from their computers and smartphones. Social media allows a greater engagement with artists from the public who admire them and also facilitates concert announcements and gallery openings so people can be more engaged with art scenes wherever they are.
Approaching creativity from this “Is It Art” perspective is a clear indication that the different types of creativity are not well understood. Perhaps art is more ubiquitous than it was ever given credit for being before. Maybe there is simply no use for such a division between cultural artifacts that are being produced at a higher rate than ever before.
Categories for Multiple Intelligence
To completely understand the types of creativity and how they’re different from one another, it’s crucial to know the different types of intelligence.
There’s the famous (likely apocryphal) quote from Einstein: “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”
Whatever your view on the ramifications of this quote for education and learning in general, it still serves to illustrate that people specialize in certain skills and their output varies greatly. For creatives, it means creative ideas can and likely are expressed in tons of different ways.
Use the following types of intelligence to think of different ways your creative team can integrate as effectively as possible:
Graphic designers and illustrators are probably in this group. They have a knack or a honed skill at representative diagrams and know how to convey and understand information that’s organized based on how the eye perceives it.
Architects are another great example of visually creative people. Imagining and manipulating space according to the way people move through it is another attribute of this type of intelligence.
Poets and writers are probably the first creatives you think of when you think about linguistic intelligence. But in the business world, there are also copywriters, marketing professionals, and content writers who develop a very high degree of linguistic creativity in the course of their work and continuing education.
Organizing tons of information and building codes and algorithms require logic and a fine understanding of mathematics. This type of creativity is usually the most foreign to people with one of the other types of intelligence on this list. A writer may understand a musician but at the same time fail to appreciate the genius of a coder or a physical theorist.
Athletes and performers typically have a high degree of bodily awareness. This is a kind of spatial awareness that’s a bit different than the kind that painters and architects have – one being representative and the other practical, while kinesthetic spatial awareness involves an intuitive understanding of how the body moves through space.
You might think types of intelligence like this have little practicality in the business world, but it’s getting more important all the time due to the rise in popularity of wearable tech and augmented reality. Creatives might not need to understand how to throw a baseball but they should understand the physical way that people handle their tech.
Many researchers believe that humans understood meaning through music before they understood it expressed in words. Playing, listening, and creating mood through music operated in a completely different part of the brain.
We’ve all been amazed by people with high acuity in the musical arts. Wunderkinds and young people who have already mastered an instrument are widely shared on streaming sites. When it comes to creatives in the business world, musically intelligent people can be overlooked or relegated to jingles and snappy intros. But effective music can make or break a project.
Some people have a natural understanding of the way people interact with and behave around others. It’s kind of like social intelligence and may manifest as what’s commonly referred to as street smarts. In any case, it can be highly useful in creative applications.
This is especially so when creatives have high interpersonal intelligence that includes the way people behave in a digital realm. The internet changes lots of things and it’s undeniable at this point that people act differently on social media than they do in real life. Understanding this behavior and how it’s different can help companies design better user journeys and better products overall.
Somewhat different from interpersonal intelligence is the awareness of the way you feel within yourself. Various factors can impact whether or not we’re fully open about our thoughts and emotions, principally whether we have the time and desire to introspect. Empathizing with users is much easier when creatives have a high amount of intrapersonal intelligence.
4 Types of Creativity
Whether it’s in a professional context or not, creativity reveals itself in a myriad of ways. We can summarize different creative approaches into 4 essential categories to make creativity itself easier to understand. It will also help with organizing creative teams for any kind of project.
1. Deliberate and Emotional
Creativity can be divided into two overarching categories. On the one hand, it can be spontaneous and in the moment. On the other hand, it can be deliberate and even premeditated.
Deliberate and emotional creativity is the kind that focuses on thoughts and feelings in the abstract. People might not be going through those emotions presently, but they can be expected to at some point in the future. This is also the kind of creativity used when we purposefully set time aside to introspect or empathize.
That’s not to say that intuition and spur-of-the-moment decisions don’t play a role with people principally possessing this kind of creativity. It also doesn’t mean they don’t also rely on logic in their decision-making. But it does mean that they are more likely to be quiet and considerate of qualitative aspects of a project.
You can look to these types of creatives to perform user research and identify pain points that might escape the more business-minded people on the team. Put them in customer-facing positions and let them be intermediaries for empathy for the highest chance of success.
2. Spontaneous and Emotional
If people with the same level of emotional intelligence live more in the moment, they’re likely more spontaneous. This is the kind of creativity that might seem more dramatic. But it’s also based on human behavior that is so widespread it’s universal.
If you’re testing a product and want to know how it will feel as users move through it on their journey, spontaneous creativity is helpful. The people with this kind of creativity aren’t guaranteed to be free from bias by any means, but they are often less influenced by their perceptions.
These types of creatives are also fantastic conduits for the ideas of the group. Even if it takes weeks of thought and research, spontaneous and emotional thinkers are the most likely to reach that a-ha moment that makes new ideas so fulfilling to reach.
3. Deliberate and Logical
Hammering out infrastructure and programming might require some consideration of feelings and emotions, but it’s mostly based on careful planning and problem-solving. These types of creatives are essential in the business world and often help temper the less structured ideas from more emotional creatives on the team.
Although they might seem a bit more closed-off or scientifically-minded at times, these creatives are the ones that will bring the project to life. All the systems needed for storing and retrieving data and making sure technical errors don’t impede the customer journey are within the realm of deliberate and logical thinkers.
Because they are deliberate, they typically have a wide range of knowledge on subjects from careful study over long periods. They have taken the time to research and memorize important technical and scientific information that is necessary to perform their duties well.
Ideally, this research isn’t for mere calculating but also wide open imagination. If you can manage to spur these types of creatives toward brainstorming and boundless thinking, you’re likely to get some great results that are completely innovative in a way that less technical imaginings aren’t.
4. Spontaneous and Logical
Television loves to present moments of genius as breakthrough inspiration. This is similar to the fourth type of creativity, which is both logical and spontaneous. Heated moments where sudden changes force fast decisions are best handled by people with this type of creativity.
In the perfect scenario, they have already had enough experience and done enough research to be well-informed about the problem at hand. But the most important feature of this type of creative is that they are able to separate emotions from the facts even when there is little time to consider practical minutiae. If something needs repairing, they won’t despair at the loss of opportunity but rather get straight into the nitty-gritty details.
What this usually translates to on a project is a focus on ideas that will have an impact. They can be short- or long-term, but they’re bound to be practical and actionable right away.
There are several different types of intelligence and creativity that play out differently in the professional world. Understanding the difference between all of them will not only guarantee better outcomes on your projects but also help fit creatives into roles where they can thrive.
You may have different types of creatives on the same team. While it takes work to make sure they’re productive, it also gives you enough variation to get the best ideas with wide appeal for prospective customers. Make sure management and the other team members know how to identify different types of intelligence so they can build the best teams possible.