Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Components of Creativity Part 1; Expertise

Creativity has been found to comprise three central mechanisms; Expertise, Creative Thinking, and Motivation. Although these have on occasions been referred to under different headings (for example, as Intelligence, Creative Skills and Motivation to Innovate), academics are in general agreement about their definition. It should be noted that these components apply to both individual and small work group based creativity

Expertise denotes the individual’s knowledge; specifically, domain relevant knowledge, including opinions, domain-specific technical skills, and special talents. Expertise provides the individual with a repertoire of possible solutions to a specific problem. As there will invariably be a degree of risk involved with creativity, basic domain knowledge will result in outcome uncertainty reduction; specifically, expertise affords the individual a greater knowledge base from which to structure a potential solution. When facing events that are surprising or challenging, the process of ‘Sensemaking’ occurs. Sensemaking involves the retrieval of rational accounts, or frames of reference. These frames of reference represent cognitive knowledge structures about a concept, developed following exposure to an external stimulus. Such stimuli are cognitively encoded and stored, available as an influencer for future judgements and behaviours. As frames of reference become more accessible through regular activation, the ease with which the account is retrieved increases. As an individual becomes more knowledgeable about a subject, the various frames of reference from which action can be derived increase. Thus, employees with rich background domain knowledge will possess a greater pool of information from which to craft problem solutions.

As business turbulence increases, employees are regularly confronting unique events of which they have limited or no prior experience. By calling upon similarly categorised frames of reference, the likelihood of an appropriately creative response being crafted is enhanced. By combining existing knowledge in new and creative ways, the employee is able to adopt an appropriate strategy for addressing the situation. It should be acknowledged that such frames of reference may be influenced over time. For example, when organisation crises occur, the area that provides the eventual solution may influence the frame of reference recognised by a particular workgroup to address similar future occurrences.

It is important to note that expertise does not represent creativity in itself, however the more voluminous the number of cognitive accounts stored, the larger the knowledgebase from which a creative outcome can be constructed. In order to recognise creative potential, one must consider Creative Thinking.

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