Creativity is not only about “imagination”

“Creativity” — a very popular term — has been now mentioned as one of the most critical fators to measure one’s capability of working. Usually we heard from the successful, especially the youth: “you have to think out of the box, be creative!”. Apparently, it is not strange to everyone at all.

Despite its importance, not many people whose work requires much creativity cannot define it clearly. Even some who usually give presentations on creativity are not able to confidently answer the question “what is creativity?”. This, hilariously, sounds similar to the circumstance that you are attempting to use an ipad though you have no idea what it is and what it is used for.

What is “Creativity”?

In fact, many definitions of “creativity” have been variantly proposed. Some have never thought of defining it. Some consider it imagination by default. Alternatively, some define it as the productivity of generating new ideas… Here I want to give you a definition from the perspective of TRIZ (also my perspective):

An CREATIVE activity is an arbitrary activity
that is simultaneously NEW and MEANINGFUL.

We should keep in mind that verifying an object as a “new” one requires a preceding object.
The property of “meaningfulness” only exposes when the given object works in its functions and in its scope of use.

For instance, transportation by bike is definitely new relative to walking because a bike is totally different from our legs. Moreover, thanks to a bike, we can go further and faster than walking which is meaningful. Hence, we can conclude transportation by bike is creative relative to walking. Besides, its benefits appears when it is working in its scope of use which means being used to transport something, not a bike exhibited in a gallery.

What is “Creative Thinking”?

“Creative thinking” — in my definition — is the process of thinking which leads us:

  • From not knowing how to solve a problem to knowing how to solve it.
  • From not knowing how to optimally solve a problem (decision making) to knowing how to optimally solve it.

Here “creativity thinking” can be generally understood as thinking to solve problems and make decisions. By this definition, we can easily assess someone’s capability of creativity based on how they solve unfamiliar problems. In addition, this way of definition apparently demonstrates the important role of creativity not only in our work but also in life.


I do not intend to persuade you to follow my definition of creativity but to remind you of knowing well what you are using and what you are aiming at. Make it clear and specific — as Lenin used to say:

“Truth is always concrete”