Characteristics of Creative People

Some traits of creative people Creativity and Creative Problem Solving list,           June 5, 2000, from: Robert Alan Black.

In 1980 as part of my doctoral studies of Creative Thinking I did a study of the traits of Creative People. I chose two educational journals and two psychological journals and searched for articles on the traits of creative people from 1950 to 1980. In total their were over 150 authors, researchers ranging from J. P. Guilford, E. Paul Torrance, Sidney J. Parnes to Gary Davis, Dorie Shallcross, Dorothy Sisk, Morris I. Stein, Irving Sato, etc., all researchers and experts on creativeness, creative thinking, creativity and creative people.  From the list came over 400 separate traits. From that I pulled out 32 that at least 5 of the separate experts agreed and wrote on.  Those 32 have been part of an on-going study I have been doing since 1980. The first section, 3 chapters of my book BROKEN CRAYONS is devoted to the significance of those 32 traits to everyone, not simply ‘CREATIVE PEOPLE”, what we can learn from these as individuals/team leaders/managers, and how we might use them to further develop our own creative abilities.   They are…

Characteristics of creative people

1. sensitive Being sensitive helps creativeness in many ways: a. it helps with awareness of problems, known & unknown b. it helps people sense things easier c. it helps to cause people to care and commit themselves  to challenges or causes

2. not motivated by money As important as money is in most societies or economies it is not a driving force for a creative person. Generally they have an intuitive sense of the amount of money they basically need and once that need is fulfilled then money stops affecting or driving them.

3. sense of destiny Intuitively creative people know that they have a purpose, a destiny or they realize that they can choose or create one to drive them to reach greater heights of skill, ability, or talent.

4. adaptable Without the ability to adapt people could not become creative. But rather than adapt to something they choose to adapt things to suit them, their needs or the goals they are striving towards.

5. tolerant of ambiguity Two or more things or ideas being right at the same time challenges the thinking of a creative person. They love to be ambiguous to challenge other people and ideas. Ambiguity helps them see things from many different perspectives all at the same time.

6. observant Creative people constantly are using their senses: consciously, sub-consciously and unconsciously, even non-consciously.

7. perceive world differently Thoreau talked about people drumming to a different drum beat. Creative people thrive on multiple ways of perceiving: seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting, sensing things. These different perspectives open up their minds to unlimited possibilities.

8. see possibilities Average people, people who don’t believe they are creative, people who are fearful or resistant to creativeness or creative thinking prefer to work within limits with limited possibilities. Creative people love to see many, even infinite possibilities in most situations or challenges.

9. question asker Creative people, especially highly creatives, probably came out of their mothers wombs asking questions. Its in their nature to question. Question yes, not actually criticize. Their questioning nature often mistakenly appears as criticism when it is simply questioning, exploring, examining, playing with things as they are or might be.

10. can synthesize correctly often intuitively This is the ability to see the whole picture, see patterns, grasp solutions with only a few pieces, even with major pieces missing. Creative people trust their intuition, even if it isn’t right 100% of the time.

11. able to fanaticize Stop looking out the window Billy. Susie pay attention. Teachers, parents, and even friends often tell creative people this. Highly creative people love to wander through their own imaginary worlds. This is one of the major themes of the very popular cartoon strip Calvin and Hobbes. Both Calvin and Hobbes (Calvin’s alter ego?) are perpetual CRAYON BREAKERS.

12. flexible Creative People are very flexible when they are playing with ideas. They love to look at things from multiple points of view and to produce piles of answers, maybes, almosts, when other people are content with the or an answer or solution.

13. fluent It could be a door stop, a boat anchor, a weapon, a prop, a weight for holding down papers, etc., etc., etc. This is what a creative person would say about the possible uses of a brick.

14. imaginative Creative people love to use their imagination, to play, to make seem real, to experiment.

15. intuitive The more creative a person is the more they tap their intuition skills; the abilities to see answers with minimum facts, to sense problems even when they aren’t happening.

16. original Being original is a driving force for creative people. They thrive on it.

17. ingenious Doing the unusual. Solving unsolvable problems. Thinking what has never been thought of before. These are all traits of a creative person that make them be ingenious at times.

18. energetic Challenges, problems, new ideas once committed to by a creative person truly excite them and provide them with seeming unlimited amounts of energy; such as Sherlock Holmes once he grasps a sense of the mystery.

19. sense of humor Laughter and creativity truly go together. Many experts believe that creativity cant occur without a touch of humor believing that seriousness tends to squelch creativeness or creative thinking.

20. self-actualizing The psychologist Abraham Maslow created this term in the 1960s representing the ultimate motivator of people the need or desire to be all you can be, to be what you were meant to be.

21. self-disciplined This is one trait that appears to be ambiguous in highly creative people. They can appear disorganized, chaotic at times while at the same time they are highly self-disciplined. At the same time, they greatly resist the discipline of other people who are not of like creative mind.

22. self-knowledgeable During my life I have read biographies and biographic sketches or over 4,000 people, mostly considered to be the highest of the highly creatives in their respective fields. One of the few things they had in common is that they all kept some form of journal and were constantly striving to better understand themselves.

23. specific interests This is still another ambiguous trait of creative people. They appear on the surface to be interested in everything, while at the same time they have very specific interests that they commit their true energies and efforts to. By being willing to be exposed to seemingly unlimited interests they discover more about their particular specific interests.

24. divergent thinker Creative people love to diverge from the norm, to look at things from multiple positions, to challenge anything that exists. Because of this they are seen at times to be off-key, deviant, atypical, irregular, or uncharacteristic.

25. curious Like the Cheshire Cat of Alice in Wonderland, creative people are continuously curious, often child-like.

26. open-ended In order to explore many possibilities creative people tend to stay open-ended about answers or solutions until many have been produced.

27. independent Creative people crave and require a high degree of independence, and resist dependence but often can thrive on beneficial inter-dependence.

28. severely critical Yes creative people challenge most everything, every idea, every rule. They challenge, challenge, and challenge some more to the point that most other people see their challenging as severe criticism.  They are generally most critical of…1. themselves, 2. their work, 3. their professions, 4. potentials of people, organizations, governments, countries, the world or humanity in general.

29. non-conforming Conforming is the antithesis, the opposite of creativeness and in order to be creative, creative people must be non-conforming and go against the norm, swim up stream.

30. confident This is another ambiguous trait in creative people. When they are at their most creative they are extremely confident. When they are in a stage of frustration when nothing seems to be working they often  lack confidence. After much positive experience they begin to trust themselves and know that they will become depressed, frustrated nearly devastated but their internal sub-conscious confidence keeps them moving or at least floating until they experience or discover an aha! (a breakthrough idea or piece of information)

31. risk taker This trait is a general mis-understanding of many non-creative people or people who fear the creativeness of creative people. Highly creative people are not really risk takers because they do not see what they are doing as a risk. They simply see it as a possible solution or path towards a solution. They have other possible solutions, often many others in their head or their notes to use if a particular idea or solution does work. As Thomas Edison once said when asked how it felt to have failed nearly 7,000 times trying to discover the best filament for an incandescent light bulb, those are not failures, they are solutions to problems I haven’t started working on yet.

32. persistent Charles Goodyear (discover & inventor of vulcanized rubber) and Chester Carlson (inventor of electrostatic copying, the Xerox process: xerography) are two of the best examples of this trait in creative people. Both of them worked over 30 years trying to make a sol

These represent those that at least 5 people wrote about or agreed were the traits of highly creative people. HIGHLY creative people, not just creative people. 3 of them have been used on several tests of creative thinking skills including E. Paul Torrance’s famous Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking that have been used around the world since the mid-60s, Guilford, Davis and others: fluency, flexibility, elaboration, orginality.  I haven’t checked over the past 10 years in the journals. Perhaps even more traits have been sorted out or discovered.     Robert Alan Black – author of the book Broken Crayons: Break Your Crayons and Draw Outside the Lines 






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