Creative You

By Dr. Erik Guzik and Dr. Kathy Goff, cSchool, Creative Oklahoma

Are you creative?  Very few of us think we are. In fact, when many of us think about creativity, we often conjure up images of musicians, artists, and writers—the mystical “creatives” who we dream about being, but never dreamed we could actually be.

Sadly, we rarely allow ourselves to imagine that we might actually be the creative ones.  Or that we might be able to benefit from our creative abilities in a number of interesting and important ways—whether completing an otherwise boring homework assignment, crafting a witty email to a friend, or devising a game plan to break an opposing team’s stifling half-court press.

The truth is that most of us do not realize what unique creative abilities we hold and the interesting ways in which they can be applied. Worse still, lacking an adequate understanding of our own creativity, we very often place ourselves at a disadvantage when building careers, attending staff meetings, or even deciding what (or how) to prepare for dinner. After all, how can we effectively develop and apply our creativity if we do not understand our own unique creative strengths and potentials?

We developed the online Vast Creative Abilities Indicator (VCAI) in response to these concerns.  While we appreciate forms of assessment based on self-reporting and self-perception, we also believe that the best way to understand and develop creativity is to set it in motion—and view it in action.  In this spirit, the VCAI asks users to complete a small set of interactive, hands-on challenges that allow respondents to showcase their actual creative abilities and talents. The short version of the test takes only 15 minutes to complete, offering a small set of tasks whose results are evaluated by trained scorers to determine an individual’s current creative strengths and potentials. The tasks include a variety of different cues—verbal, visual, spatial, audible—in order to identify different aspects and kinds of creativity.

Though the VCAI is still being carefully beta tested, the initial results have been very encouraging. As one example, while working with Creative Oklahoma’s cSchool, we captured sketches of incomplete figures that cSchool students were asked to complete online as part of an initial assessment of their creative abilities:

Here is one of the complete screen captures of a sketch submitted by a cSchool student:

Note the creative process that the student is using.  The drawing begins in the left frame, resulting in a fish, likely triggered by the image that resembles a hook.  But it is a false start, and the sketch is erased.  In the right frame, a drawing then appears of a woman with red shoes.  Again, a false start—the student erases the figures and begins again.  The final drawing is a mermaid—half fish/half woman—that ties both figures together, and also happens to include some very witty titles (another indicator of creativity that we consciously look for—and reward—in submissions).

Psychologists often talk about epiphany and the “A-ha” moment in the creative process.  Not only do we see that moment within the sketch above, it can be analyzed, studied, researched, taught, and enjoyed.  The sketch also illustrates the power of imagination and play–if the student hadn’t been willing to imagine different possible configurations or outcomes involving the given figures, the imaginative end result would never have been created.  We see here experimentation, determination, perseverance, and a desire to create something truly different and unique.

The VCAI also offers an automated creative strengths finder (again currently in beta), based on new software algorithms designed to detect creative markers within submitted work. Automated results of creative strengths are made available to users immediately upon completion of the provided challenges.  Since users respond to a variety of cues as they work on challenges, the automated results also include a description of the different forms of creativity identified within submissions.

Though we certainly would not want to remove the essential human element from creativity evaluation and enjoyment (nor, we would argue, is this possible), the automated assessment offers a number of interesting benefits and opportunities.  As mentioned above, users receive feedback and results instantly.  The results themselves provide the basis for future individualized, self-paced creativity training and development—creative brain training, if you will.  Perhaps best of all, however, the cost of administering the short version of the automated assessment within organizations is extremely low compared to traditional methods of talent evaluation—and free for use in education.  Combined with human scoring, we believe this automated, cloud-based approach to creativity evaluation—a form of blended assessment—holds great promise in evaluating creativity quickly, yet effectively, within both education and business. Using this system, we are now beginning to map the creative abilities of K12 students in Montana, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts, hoping to find hotspots of creativity where one might least expect them, perhaps in a disadvantaged school or otherwise neglected school district.  We are excited about the possibilities.

We should also be careful to note that we see creativity assessment as a beginning rather than an end, a way to discover creative strengths and an opportunity to better develop the creative capacities that each of us holds. As researchers and evaluators, we are very careful not to get caught within popular webs of misconception that view creativity as an innate individual gift rather than a shared human ability—an ability that we firmly believe can be further developed with better practice, learning, and understanding.

So do you know your current creative strengths and abilities?  If not, what might you be missing? Try out the VCAI here:

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