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C2C Digital Magazine (Spring / Summer 2020)

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Book Review: Exploiting the Creativity Edge

By Shalin Hai-Jew, Kansas State University 

Shulamith Kreitler, Editor
New Frontiers in Creativity 
New York:  Nova Science Publishers 
2020   pp. 1 – 442 

Creativity is inextricably involved in the dynamic transformation of the imaginative into the real, binding the envisaged future with the emerging present, keeping a steady fixation on the goal which is improving the wellbeing and survival of human beings.”  -- Dr. Shulamith Kreitler, in the Preface of New Frontiers in Creativity (2020, p. ix)

Today, the living environment in the industrialized world is increasingly constructed by humans and is as such the product of human creativity:  clothes, furniture, buildings, cities, transport infrastructure, media, information technology, music and art.  In the world we inhabit today, even the majority of biological elements are engineered by humans, from our medicated bodies to bred animals and cultivated plants. The facilitators of this world construction such as political systems, philosophy and science, are human creations in their own right.   However, creativity or at least creative feats do not seem to be distributed equally among humans.”    -- Erik Thys, in “Fragile and Fruitful Minds: Creativity and Psychopathology” in New Frontiers in Creativity (Ch. 6, 2020, p. 51)  


Consider the parts of your life that require creativity…and how you get into the right headspace or other state in order to be able to conceptualize or produce something novel.  

In early days, creativity was seen as part of the capabilities of geniuses and the unusually talented, some with a touch of “madness”. There were some ideas about how to limber up and to harness the cross-fertilization of ideas from other fields in order to think more innovatively.  There have been anecdotes of high-creatives and how they were able to come up with new innovations, some during dreams, others while engaging the world, some in discussions with a friend or business partner, and other experiences.  For many, serendipity is an important ingredient for creative thinking.  Creativity is at the apex of Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains (cognitive, psychomotor, and affective) requiring the following from bottom up:  remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.  Creativity is enabled by the prior lead-up capabilities.  

Creativity is linked to domains like “design, sports, business, finances, management, cooking, interpersonal relations, and parenthood,” with “barely a domain exempt from the demand for creativity” (Kreitler, 2020, p. 4).  In work contexts, the focus has been on how innovative a concept is and how much utility it has in the marketplaces.  In other words, how well can the ideas be monetized over time and at what costs?  Various domains are thought to require different types of creative practices, for efficacy.  

Being innovative in a work context is about deep grounded knowledge and skill, appropriate judgment, the ability to recognize something novel that is important, focus, hard work, and persistence, as much as it is about inspiration.  There is also the need to be aware of the competition and to be able to protect innovations against others’ opportunism.  The innovations have to not only work in the mind, on the page, and in the lab, but also in the world, and often at mass scale.  (These innovations are termed “Big C” creativity as contrasted to mundane and small-scale “Little c” types of creativity, which apparently refer to small adaptations and innovations.)  

Over the years, supported by new theorizing and research, the thinking has changed.  It is thought that all people have creative capabilities and exercise creativity as a regular part of their lives.  And creativity involves a complex of issues.   


Shulamith Kreitler’s New Frontiers in Creativity has collected the work of international experts from “Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Israel, Portugal, Romania, Russia, and USA,” and they bring fresh methods to the study of creativity, including neurophysiology, statistics, and mathematics (Kreitler, 2020, p. x); they also identify greater ranges of populations who create “ranging from the dyslexic to the elderly” (p. x), and they address a range of domains in which creativity is newly applied. This book is comprised of three parts:  Creativity from Specific Perspectives (Part 1), Creativity in Specific Populations (Part 2), and Creativity in Specific Domains (Part 3).  

A Baseline Understanding of Creativity in People

Chapter 1 sets some baseline understandings of human creativity.  Shulamith Kreitler’s “The Many Faces of Creativity” (Ch. 1) posts a multi-component model of creativity, including “cognition, motivation, personality, emotions, mental health, behavior, and the sociocultural environment” with various interactions between these elements (Kreitler, 2020, p. 3).  The editor of this collection observes that “cognition, even when amplified by particular skills, cognitive or of another kind, is still evidently insufficient for the production of creative outputs”; further, motivation, personality characteristics, and other aspects may be necessary but are insufficient in and of themselves to result in creativity (Kreitler, 2020, p. 6).  External, ecological factors may be required as well, including the “cultural atmosphere” and / or an “environmental atmosphere” (p. 6).  And yet, while these elements may be somewhat defined, they do not seem to work in a mechanistic way.  

Intelligence contributes to cognition and learning, but the intelligence quotient (IQ) “is not a strong contributing factor to creativity” (Batey & Furnham, 2006, as cited in Kreitler, 2020, p. 9).  Four cognitive processes were thought to contribute to creativity:  “fluency (the number of ideas or associations that a person has), flexibility (the differential character of the ideas), elaboration (the degree to which the ideas are elaborated beyond the mere label) and originality (the unique aspects of the ideas in terms of their statistical rarity)” (Kreitler, 2020, p. 9).  Other research suggests that people who are creative can focus on details “that seem irrelevant to others” and are able to combine ideas “from remote domains” and can wield their attention (“to broaden attention and limit attention”) and visualize (Kreitler, 2020, p. 9).  In many cases, innovations require multiple cognitive processes simultaneously.  Some models break out creative work in various stages.  

Humans use their cognition in two main ways:  

One is the mode focused on interpersonally-shared meanings, defined primarily by the use of propositional statements and the comparative relations, which support systematic, logical and rational thinking. The other is the mode focused on subjective-personal meanings, defined primarily by the use of illustrative statements (referring to specific examples, situations or scenes), metaphors, and symbols.  (Kreitler, 2020, p. 11)   

Creatives tend to cognitively use the interpersonally-shared meanings 50% of the time and the subjective-personal meanings 50% in terms of general tendencies…while non-creatives “use the interpersonal mode in the majority of their meaning responses (80%) and the subjective-personal mode much less (20%).  Creative switch easily between the modes and are self-aware of which mode they’re in (Kreitler  & Kreitler, 1988; Kreitler, 1999, 2019, as cited in Kreitler, 2020, p. 12).  Creative thinkers also tend to value divergent over convergent thinking.  

Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (of “flow” fame) identified ten traits in creative individuals “(a) a lot of physical energy coupled with periods of quiet and rest; (b) smartness and naivety; (c) playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility; (d) imagination and fantasy together with a sense of reality; (e) extroversion and introversion; (f) humility and pride at the same time, (g) masculinity and femininity in both gender; (h) rebelliousness and conservatism; (i) being passionate about their work and still being able to assume an objective attitude toward it; (j) openness toward others and sensitivity, which renders them vulnerable to both pain and suffering as well as great enjoyment” (1996, as cited in Kreitler, 2020, pp. 16 – 17).  These aspects are “antithetical” and in “dialectical tension” and “integrated” with each other (p. 16).  Creative individuals tend to be “curious, have broad interests, have information in a variety of domains, are interested in the environment and are in general liberal and tolerant” (Helsen, Agronick, & Robers, 1995; Wolfradt & Peretz, 2001, as cited in Kreitler, 2020, p. 17).  Emotions affect cognition and creativity, with “positive” affect much more conducive to creativity (Kreitler, 2020, p. 19).  A person’s experienced life, from childhood, has ecological effects on their development of creativity and creative expression.  

Based on the summarized studies, Shulamith Kreitler suggests some interventions for improving creativity such as addressing a range of dimensionalities of creativity, not just cognition.  There should also be attention paid to “general creativity and domain-specific creativity” (Kreitler, 2020, p. 27), so people may engage the creativity flexibly.  She offers a third principle:  since creativity is based on contrasts, “it may be advisable to train pairs of tendencies rather than single contrasts” (p. 28).  

Figure 1.  "Creative" Tile Visual (by StockSnap on Pixabay) 

About Meta-Creativity to Expand Methods of Creativity Research 

In the spirit of applying their research findings, creativity researchers are exploring ways to expand the research methods applied to their fields.  They are exploring “meta-creativity” issues, those  “identified in the (creativity) research but also then contribute to the creativity of new research” in Mark A. Runco’s “Meta-Creativity Contributes to the Expanding Frontiers of the Creativity Research” (Ch. 2) (p. 41).  The thinking goes:  If it is beneficial to creativity to be tolerant of “one’s own or the originality of others,” to avoid conceptual ruts, to think mindfully, to update knowledge, and to question assumptions, then wouldn’t these approaches also benefit creativity research methods?  Said another way:  How can creativity researchers ensure that their research on creativity “is itself creative” (p. 42).  

Practically speaking, for creatives to be effective in society with others, they have to avoid some extremes, such as excessive “weirdness” and divergent thought but also too much control, which may “squelch” ideation (Runco, 2020, p. 44).  To be creative, people need to be able to hold contradictory thoughts simultaneously; they have to be able to challenge paradigmatic thinking.  Runco provides some possible research directions for creativity research, and he also suggests that considering “malevolent” vs. “benevolent” creativity may be of interest even in relation to “the moral and political realms” (Runco, 2020, p. 57).   

Understanding Brains on Creativity:  The Neurophysiology of Creativity

One of the works that most closely seems to adhere to the classic concept of the inherent genius may be seen in N.V. Shemyakina and Zh. V. Nagornova’s “Neurophysiology of Creativity or Research Trends in Neurophysiology of Creativity” (Ch. 3).  The co-authors, in the abstract, conceptualize creativity as a “personal trait, ability, way of decision, the concept of life” (Shemyakina & Nagornova, 2020, p. 61).  They suggest that creativity is an “integrative mental ability” (p. 62).  Creative thinking is “a complex of developing abilities in the person” (Shemyakina & Nagornova, 2020, p. 80).    

Studies of brain activity for their underlying mechanisms found varying “correlates of creativity” depending on various conditions, including strategies for solving the creative task, task types, and other factors (Shemyakina & Nagornova, 2020, p. 63).  In other words, the electric brain activities of people engaged in creative tasks were “rather contradictory” (p. 63).  Some types of creative tasks in the research include story generation, “associative chain” of words generation, creative definitions generation, completion of “well-known proverbs and sayings,” picture drawing, and other types of generative tasks (p. 65).  Some of the studies explore human ability to quickly generate new ideas, which can be assessed by their quality and amount, in part.  

The researchers found three types of organized research in the neurophysiological study of creativity:  “’active models’ in which subjects make self-assessment if they got insight” (Shemyakina & Nagornova, 2020, p. 66); “’passive models’ in which the insight comes as the reaction on the demonstrated correct solutions of the task,” and “’insight generating task construction’ where special organization of the task provide more insight-like states” (p. 67).  Some research suggests that “functional connectivity (FC) within and between functional large scale brain networks…” may explain some neurophysiological bases in individual differences in creativity, those with high vs. those with low creativity (p. 74).  Creativity is related to healthy brain functioning and cognition in aging (pp. 77 – 78).  Early work involved identifying those “who are creative and gifted and those who are obviously not creative”  and looking for differences between the two groups during creative task performance (Shemyakina & Nagornova, 2020, p. 80).  

This work addresses some of the challenges of teasing out meanings from the research.  They write of the challenges of interpreting differences between groups and attributing causation:    

One of the most intriguing fields in neuroscience of creativity is the influence of the creativity training and creativity engagement in different domains (arts, sciences, and business) on brain structural and functional features during the creative acts and resting state in the professionals and naïve individuals.  It is difficult to investigate this topic primarily because of the fundamental dialectic question whether such differences, revealed in neurophysiological studies, result from pre-existing biological traits, lengthy creative work engagements, or an interaction of these two factors.  (Shemyakina & Nagornova, 2020, p. 81)  

Some of the summarized studies read as specific to particular contexts, and others sound more generalizable.  The coauthors ask an open question in the space, about whether there is a unique limit to people’s capabilities (that can be improved within a “corridor”) regardless of creativity interventions (Shemyakina & Nagornova, 2020, p. 84). [Other research in education might suggest that there are natural limits and bounds and that reaching beyond limits is marginal.]

Diffusion of Social Innovations

At macro societal levels, various social innovations may be adopted in terms of how society is organized and how people interrelate.  This phenomenon is a focal point in the historical review of the literature in Nikos Fokas’ “Essay on the Birth and Diffusion of Social Innovations” (Ch. 4). 

The author begins with a formula for exponential growth and one for logistic growth for the idea of the speed of acceptance of an innovation within a defined population.  He offers a visual of various formulas and equations from the general model to various growth models (2020, p. 107).  He explores various assumptions of respective models:  Where does innovation begin? Why is innovation taken up?  What networks do such innovations advance through, and why?  Are innovations spread evenly among a populace, but if not, how not?  How does the adoption of innovation change over time? Is it a stable pattern or not? What aspects of the innovations and how the innovations are handled enable broader space for “a long term exponential envelope” (Fokas, 2020, p. 108).  

Then he applies the concepts to the rise of the West and points to particular ideas that were seminal in the evolution of nation states, such as the “West’s separation of the sacred and the secular, the ideological and political spheres” (p. 111).  He recounts this history from the innovation perspective and concludes with commentary on the adaptability of Western capitalism:  

This may explain how during the past couple of hundred years Western capitalism was able to introduce important technological, technical, organizational, and social innovations without cataclysms.  In my opinion, the concept of creative destruction is but the economic equivalent of the microanalytical perspective cited from Mérei in the early part of the study. This is a likely interpretation in light of the fact that Schumpeter regarded as entrepreneurs not only the independent businesspersons of the market economy, but every economic subject assigned the function of achieving new combinations (Schumpeter, 1934).  Furthermore, competition among entrepreneurs acts as the economic counterpart of tension in the inseparably connected modeling and alteration process, which makes it a permanent source of economic innovations. Accordingly, the peculiarity of the western-type of market capitalism lies in the frequency with which innovations emerging in a micro-level state of instability become macro-level results, rather than in their birth under not unstable circumstances. (Fokas, 2020, p. 118) 

The work is intriguing, given the vagaries in how mass-scale “decisions” have been made in history and the critical challenges to getting things right (although history itself has been replete with wrong turns and missed opportunities and various follies).  More about the mechanisms about how these are arrived at would be helpful.  And having a sense of counterfactuals and alternate possibilities would be insightful as well.  What innovations were not kept?  And why not?  And for better or for worse?  

Superior Creativity among People with Dyslexia? 

Is there a “a creative superiority of both children and adults with dyslexia” that is observable beyond anecdotal information and historical-biographical reconstructions?  A review of the selected literature in Alice Cancer and Alessandro Antonietti’s “Creativity and Dyslexia:  Theoretical Insights and Empirical Evidence Supporting a Possible Link” (Ch. 5) suggests that there is some superiority in “specific sub-processes of creative thinking, namely fluency and originality” (Cancer & Antonietti, 2020, pp. 125-126).  The mechanics of this compensatory cognitive benefit from “reading disability” (and challenges with textual symbolic processing) may stem from a preference for visual representations and visual processing (West, 2009) and for intuition (Ingesson, 2006, , as cited in Cancer & Antonietti, 2020, p. 126).  To accommodate learners with dyslexia, “specific attention to creative thinking strengths is likely to foster the integration of diverse cognitive processes and promote divergent thinking in problem solving” (Cancer & Antonietti, 2020, p. 127).  In other words, it helps to offer a wide range of ways to approach learning, assessment, and feedback, with plenty of support for diverse learners with different approaches to the topic. 

The co-authors summarize some of their own research work among junior high school Italian students with an Italian creativity test, the WCR Creativity Test [focused on “three mental operations underling (sic) creative thinking, namely:  (a) Widening the mental field and broadening perception by producing many different ideas; (b) Connecting different mental fields through unusual combinations of ideas, which supports original solutions; (c) Reorganizing the mental field and de-contextualizing the elements of the situation” (Cancer & Antonietti, 2020, pp. 132-133).  In their study of students both with and without dyslexia, the researchers found “a significant negative correlation…between the connecting scores of the WCR test and word reading accuracy performances” (Cancer & Antonietti, 2020, p. 134).  

As for adults, the respective research studies found mixed results, which are too complex to deal with any depth here.  That said, some of the research studies were quite elaborate to answer the research questions asked while controlling for confounding variables and other challenges.  

On the Long Tails: Creativity and Psychopathology

Erik Thys’ “Fragile and Fruitful Minds:  Creativity and Psychopathology” (Ch. 6) explores whether empirical research might support the idea of a link between creativity and psychopathology, an assertion suggested from antiquity (through historical observations, through intuition) through the romantic era and into the 20th century (p. 149).  Abductive logic from in-world observations has its limits, however.  A review of empirical research suggests that people’s observations over time have a basis in fact.  The headline result:  “Psychometric, psychodiagnostic, neurobiological and genetic research supports a connection between creativity and psychiatric illness within the bipolar-psychotic continuum” (p. 149).  Thys suggests that showing the connection between creativity, which is seen as a net positive, and some psychiatric disorders, which are stigmatized and often seen as a negative, may ultimately help lower social stigma against the disorders.   

Thys highlights some of the main figures and thinkers and researchers in the respective ages that have advanced understandings of creativity and psychopathology.  In the 20th century, patterns in “the heterogeneous bulk of work by psychiatric patients” were “recognized that defined it as a genre in its own right” but with these disappearing with the introduction of antipsychotic medications (Thys, 2020, p. 156).  

This researcher asks whether “life stage” insights might explain in part the tie between creativity and psychosis (a state in which a person loses contact with reality based on a severe mental disorder).  He writes:  “Apart from the exceptional case of child prodigies, creativity seems to peak especially in adolescence.  Even artists, musicians and scientists who remain active at old age often build on ideas that they developed in their adolescence. This is also the life stage when psychosis or bipolar disorder first become manifest and perhaps both phenomena are somewhat connected.”  (Thys, 2020, p. 164)  

Both the creatives and non-creatives are necessary for societal co-existence.  Near the conclusion, the author observes that the world is “mostly constructed by people without exceptional creativity, and that is in general a matter of conscientious adaptation to rules, law abidance, learning, observation and imitation, social awareness and control of one’s impulses…” (Thys, 2020, p. 170).  Thys posits an inverted U relationship between creativity (y-axis) and psychopathology / psychotic vulnerability (x-axis), with an optimum state of creativity and midrange psychotic vulnerability at the peak of the inverted u (Thys, 2020, p. 171).  This would be a state of creativity related to constructive output but without the extremes of psychosis, which lead to a stoppage of creativity.     

Later-Life Creativity

Amir Cohen-Shalev’s “The Ties that Bind:  Late Life Creativity – A View from the Silver Screen” (Ch. 7) opens with Erik Erikson’s definition of old age as “the final stage of ego development manifesting the dilemma between Integrity and Despair” (p. 177).  From a review of the sparse research literature of creativity and late life, and deeper rumination across multiple films (Wit, Waking Ned, Since Otar Left, Old Cats, Twilight of Life, and others from independent cinema) , the author affirms the concept and asserts further that “to maintain integrity one also needs to fully succumb to despair” (p. 178).  This work is set up as “an attempt to avoid the dead end of the academic study of creativity over the life span” which often draws on age decrement theory (Cohen-Shalev, 2020, p. 194); rather, the author takes a more inspired and affirming approach by looking at exemplars of late-age creativity (albeit with the issue of “survival bias”).  This work concludes with an inspiring poem by Czeslaw Milosz titled “Eyes” and ends with the lines:  “Without eyes, my gaze is fixed on one bright point,/ That grows large and takes me in” (Cohen-Shalev, 2020, p. 198).  This work is an obviously “creative” one based on riffs off of others’ research works, creative works (film, poetry), and his own engaged thinking.  

Visual Innovations

Igal Vardi’s “The Logic of Creativity in the Art of Painting:  From the Ontogenetic to the Phylogenetic and from the Diachronic to the Synchronic” (Ch. 8) suggests the development of an artist as a stand-alone being in a context of other evolutionary and evolving co-artists…and from a cumulative art space (for particular modalities) to an individual voice in a particular cultural moment.  There are tensions between the social and the individual for the artists, who has to creatively define his/her/their own “aesthetic code” and artful manifesto that will be lived by.   Then, too, there is the additional effort to ensure that work is out in the public realm, where it may be engaged by others and speak to history.  

Vardi writes about the creative process for the artist as an individual living in time and influenced by the social and other influences around:  

This aesthetic code is an art manifesto of sorts that articulates do and don’t rules in the process of creating the painting.  In one’s work, the creating artist bridges two influences, the heteronomous and the autonomous. The heteronomous influence pertains to all aspects of the cultural climate, as well as to the political and socio-economic influences at play during the period in which the artist creates. At the same time, the artist is directly affected by current artistic worldviews and past traditions. All these coalesce and consolidate to form the artist’s artistic outlook, in other words a manifesto according to which one is supposed to create one’s art.  Many of the artist’s works are only variations of the same aesthetic doe that he or she were able to formulate. At the same time, there is an autonomous influence based solely on the language of the painting. This is expressed in the style manifesto the artist formulates for oneself, which represents a ‘surface structure’ (note:  visible to the human eye) compatible with the diachronic time and place and realizes a synchronic ‘deep structure’ (note:  what is “static and timeless,” hidden from view) of an archetypal style which up until then had only existed as a potential.  The artist is unaware of this.  Thus, the logic of creativity is characterized by the necessary combination between the diachronic and the synchronic, in other words between the contemporary style that was just generated as one possible variation among many and the potentiality of the archetypal style.  The history of art is the history of the creation of new styles over generations.  (Vardi, 2020, p. 206) 

Art created in the moment is also art created in continuous time, and for all time and retroactive posterity.  Art created to meet the individual artist’s internal needs (such as for a sense of control in a complex world) also has a concomitant role in meeting external (heteronomous) needs for society and humanity writ-large (with functions including political, discursive, aesthetic, economic, and others).  This macro-level conversation is one that the artist and current generations are likely not cognizant of, given the unpredictability of the future and the unseeable aspects of human history.  

Vardi offers a thought-through work involving a wide range of philosophical and theoretical stances about art, its role, the state of the world, the place of people within it, that benefit some in-depth exploration.  

Various Forms of Creative Psychotherapy

Cătălina Buzdugan, Pavel Grigore, and Margareta Dinca’s “Creativity in Psychotherapy” (Ch. 9) explores the role of creativity in applied psychotherapy (stemming from various traditions, including psychodrama, psychoanalysis, and cognitive behavioral therapy). They open with the observation that therapy is often about routinized practice; however, there is also innovations in creative arts therapies / psychotherapies, such as  “dance/movement, drama, music, and play, which enable a therapeutic relationship to be based more non-verbally than verbally” (Fisher, 2014, as cited in Buzdugan, Grigore, & Dinca, 2020, p. 231). These different modalities of expression enable a richer range of interactions, enabling therapeutic relationships “to be subtle, unspoken, and located across the sensory range, maximizing wellness in an individual rather than turning it into the agent of age” as compared to “the (traditional) purpose of talking therapies” (Buzdugan, Grigore, & Dinca, 2020, p. 231).  The authoring team goes on to describe some of the many therapeutic dynamics in such creative interactions between therapists and their clientele for the latter’s benefit, both children and adults.  This work summarizes a rich variety of psychotherapy approaches, with routinized creativity brought to the fore. 

Creativity in Engineering

Engineers, when they design particular solutions to meet needs, have to take into account a variety of stakeholders’ requirements, and they have to try to meet those needs in a way that coalesces various technologies, laws, ethics, physics constraints, and other limits.  Their creativity is one of compromises because not all requirements can be met simultaneously or to everyone’s equal satisfaction.  In Avner Engel’s “Creativity in Engineering” (Ch. 10), the author compares “traditional” and contemporary “creative” engineers.   

This work opens with a definition of engineering as “the application of scientific and mathematical principles to practical ends such as the design, manufacture, and operation of efficient and economical structures, machines, processes, and systems” (from The Free Dictionary).  A majority of engineers work in civil, computer, electrical, and mechanical engineering “whereas the rest engage in other domains like aerospace, biomedical, chemical, industrial/manufacturing, nuclear engineering, etc.” (Engel, 2020, p. 271)  Much of the work involves designing systems and system components, testing the concepts, implementing the systems, and maintaining them through the life cycle.  A generic life cycle of engineered systems involves the following:  definition, design, implementation, integration, qualification (formal and operational tests), production, use/maintenance, and disposal (Engel, 2020, p. 277).  The respective processes are rigorously defined by technical standards in the field, which help standardize the work and enhance quality.  Engel argues that a core aspect of engineering is in the design, the arrangement of various technologies and methods to achieve the engineering aims while considering societal risks (costs and benefits), aesthetics, utility, values, and social implications (Engel, 2020, pp. 286 - 291) and iterating through designs and making changes along the way (p. 294).  

The creativity of engineers involves six principles:  

1.  Debate, define, revise and pursue the purpose 
2.  Think holistic
3.  Be creative  
4.  Follow a disciplined procedure 
5.  Take account of the people 
6.  Manage the project and the relationships  (Engel, 2020, p. 295)  

Engel makes the point that systems engineers have to have a T-shaped resume, one that includes plenty of breadth but also depth in at least one area, so that individual has credibility with the team (Engel, 2020, p. 295) and a strength from which to contribute.  A visualization of the “controlled linear model of creativity and innovation” shows a diminishing pipeline of ideas that have to pass increasingly difficult hurdles (p. 306).  

To define what “creative engineers” are like, one research team conducted a study of 53 senior engineers (averaging 35 years of professional experience each) by asking:  “What are the characteristics or knowledge, skills, and attributes that enable or inhibit engineers from translating their creative ideas into innovations that benefit society?”   (Ferguson, et al., 2014, as cited in Engel, 2020, p. 306).  Creative engineers had five differentiating features:  

A tendency to “question or dispute the current way of doing things,” “work with other persons or groups in order to achieve certain goals or do things,” “pursue things even though it is difficult or other people want them to stop,” “accept the possibility that something unpleasant may happen,” and “have clear ideas about what should happen or be done in the future” (Engel, 2020, pp. 306-307); in the shorthand versions, creative engineers are take on the concomitant roles of challengers, collaborators, persistent performers, risk takers, and visionaries.  Traditional workplaces may not be particularly welcoming of creative engineers, however, based on local social norms and practices.  Creative ideas may languish from “certain personality vulnerabilities like:  insecurity, lack of stubbornness, lack of tenacity and nonconformity as well as limited ability to influence other people” (p. 308), so creatives need to take stock of their part in a frustrating work context.  And yet, for organizations that stop learning and innovating, they follow a long-observed trajectory of initially rising, but then plateauing and ending, unless they are able to reinvent themselves.  

In Architectural Design

In architectural design, creativity manifests somewhat differently.  Hernan Casakin and Shulamith Kreitler’s “Creativity in Architectural Design: An Overview” (Ch. 11) suggests that architectural design requires both general creativity and deep architectural expertise in equal measure.  They define “architectural design” as…  

“…an activity that is concerned with the creative exploration and manipulation of shapes, and spaces, technologies and materials aimed at the creation of an artifact that has to respond to programmatic requirements. The design outcome should not only be esthetic and functional, but also original and endowed with some additional value (Georgiev & Casakin, 2018; Christiaans, 2002; Sarkar & Chakrabarti, 2008, as cited in Casakin & Kreitler, 2020, p. 327).    

The work involves various design constraints.  For elegance and by practice, architectural designs express a “singular design method or shape grammar” (Chan, 2015, as cited in Casakin & Kreitler, 2020, p. 328).   Stand-out architectural designs are iconic and memorable, unique, expressive, artful, and fit their unique environment; they serve their respective users well; they evoke something of traditional architecture but also the modern.  Architectural designs, while often attributed to one individual, often represents a team with members with different expertise informing the designs.  

The center of creativity in architectural education is the design studio, a vaunted space for “promoting creativity in future architects” to “forge skills and abilities, and develop knowledge to produce innovative outcomes” (Casakin & Kreitler, 2008, as cited in Casakin & Kreitler, 2020, p. 332).  Here, learners benefit from multi-dimensional critique sessions of their designs as they evolve their own sensibilities.   As to self-assessment or architectural design creativity, multiple works have been conducted to define this, but there is no consensus around the validity/invalidity of the respective measures (p. 337).  

Sports for Creativity

Sports has been recognized as a facilitator to unleash creative behavior.”  --  Sara Santos, Jaime Sampaio, and Daniel Memmert, in “Sports as a Key Route to Ignite Creativity” 

Sara Santos, Jaime Sampaio, and Daniel Memmert’s “Sports as a Key Route to Ignite Creativity” (Ch. 12) focuses on the role of creativity in sports, as a way to improve strategy and performance.  A “tactical creativity” in team and rackets sports involves seven principles:  “deliberate play, 1-dimension games, diversification, deliberate coaching, deliberate memory, deliberate motivation, deliberate practice”) (Memmert, 2015a, 2017, as cited in Santos, Sampaio, & Memmert, 2020, pp. 350-351).  

“Deliberate play” points to “non-instructed involvement in play-oriented and at first sight unstructured situations in sport games” (Abernathy, Baker, & Coté, 2005, as cited in Santos, Sampaio, & Memmert, 2020, p. 351).    Street games are thought to benefit the creative development of athletes, given research that highly creative athletes “played far more often in their early youth (up to 14 years of age), and hence more intensely in many relatively unstructured (complex) team ball sports situations (“deliberate play”) without guidance” (Santos, Sampaio, & Memmert, 2020, pp. 351-352).  1-Dimension games are defined by basic roles and “fixed situations” (p. 352).  “Diversification” points to a wide range of training approaches to team sports (p. 352).  The focus of athlete attention is guided with limited inputs (simple directions) so as not to overtax working memory in the “deliberate memory” approach (which theoretically and practically leaves more mental capacity for creativity of the athlete).  

“Deliberate coaching” is thought to enhance creative performance by helping athletes view the competitive space with a wide aperture (attention-broadening) and sometimes with a narrow one by focusing on important aspects (attention-narrowing).  The level of focus helps train the athlete to assess accurately and to focus on what is relevant, in a range of given contexts.  The co-authors write of one application:  “Giving children reduced instructions, offers them the possibility to seek out and recognize unexpected and possibly better alternative solutions” (pp. 353 – 354).  

“Deliberate motivation” focuses on various social psychological theories around why people do what they do, based on psychological states and moods and emotions:  “According to this approach, the performance on a given task may depend on the fit between someone’s current task-specific regulatory focus (promotion or prevention) and someone’s chronic regulatory orientation (promotion or prevention)” (Santos, Sampaio, & Memmert, 2020, p. 354).  

“Deliberate practice” refers to “targeted and task-centered training programs based on instructions” (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Römer, 1993”; a main finding in research is that “creative, exceptional athletes in basketball, soccer, handball, and hockey trained significantly longer and  more purposefully in their main sport before they were 14 than less creative top athletes” (Santos, Sampaio, & Memmert, 2020, p. 355).  

Beyond the seven principles, the Creativity Development Framework for team sports suggests that there are five incremental creative stages by age:  beginner (2 - 6 years), explorer (7 – 9 years), illuminati (10 – 12 years), creator (13 – 15 years), and rise stage (over 16 years), with suggested methods to create a “creativity-friendly environment” with training approaches.  The approaches include diversified practice, physical literacy, nonlinear pedagogy, teaching games for understanding, differential learning, and creative thinking (Santos, Sampaio, & Memmert, 2020, p. 355).  This approach is suggestive of developmental theories of learning, with particular learning windows at particular ages.  Later on, “progressive sports specialization and the role of variability are extremely important for pushing the limits of the expert players by increasing the range of skills configurations” (p. 360).  

In sports, some methods have been developed to track creativity, such as the Creative Behavior Assessment in Team Sports (CBATS), game-based measures for tactical skills, video-based tests for tactics, and others.  

A New Framework for Understanding the World:  Creativity in Nature

Karl Edlinger’s “Creativity:  An Indispensable Component of Nature” (Ch. 13)  suggests that “every natural event has been characterized from the beginning by a continuous processuality and a permanent change” which tend not to be noticed because of “an apparent persistence of physical, chemical and also biological structures” (2020, p. 379).  This author suggests that natural change is “analogous and equal to human creativity, and often superior in the long run” (p. 379).  This idea may have special applicability to the natural sciences (in particular, “biology, evolutionary science and prebiotic”) (p. 381).  Changes over time (“growth, maturation or metamorphosis”) in long-term patterns are not considered creative (Edlinger, 2020, pp. 385 - 386).  Creativity in nature is contextualized as follows:  

A look into the world of living organisms shows that such ‘creative’ processes occur in all groups, be they plants, animals, fungi, bacteria or even viruses. However, creative change in general has a different character and also different degrees. One can certainly speak of a ‘scale of creativity.’  This indicates that they can be both minor and profound creative changes that occur during different time horizons. (Edlinger, 2020, p. 386).  

Actual novel and creative changes may be seen in the “transition from wind pollination to insect pollination in flowering plants,” “all phylogenetic conversion processes” (Edlinger, 2020, p. 386), changes in DNA sequences to “allow new or additional benefits” (p. 387).  New life forms have emerged from worldwide catastrophic events (from volcanism, large meteor impacts, mass extinctions from the historical darkening of the biosphere, radiations, and others) (Edlinger, 2020, p. 388).  Creativity also comes from relations with the environment, epigenetics (modifications of gene expressions rather than direct changes to the genetic code directly), and other factors (p. 391).  This work explores some ideas on how life evolved from nonliving matter (as theorized by Schrodinger).  He summarizes some of the thinking about nature from some leading thinkers of their respective times.  Some thinkers about nature include Friedrich Wilhelm Josef Schelling, Alfred North Whitehead, and others.  This creative framework is a challenge to the historical mechanistic sense of the evolving world.  

Nature itself is highly creative, and when people engage in creativity, they are acting in alignment with much of the world around them.  By analogy, people also create through engagement with the world around, by intercommunications with others, by selective choices, and others.  


New Frontiers in Creativity is an ambitious collection of insightful works that wrangle with complex issues of human creativity in general and in specific domains.  While many of the 13 chapters are based on informed deep literature reviews, some works share primary (qualitative) research.  These chapters offer fresh insights to creativity theorizing, research, and applied practice.  

Dr. Shulamith Kreitler, editor of New Frontiers in Creativity (2020), is Professor Emeritus at the School of Psychological Sciences in Tel-Aviv University in Israel and head of psychooncology research center at the Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer.  Her “major interests and publications are in cognition, creativity, personality , and health psychology.”  During her career, she has published over 20 scientific books and 200 articles (2020, pp. 419 – 420).  This book is part of the Perspectives on Cognitive Psychology series, with Nova Science Publishers.  

This book includes some email contacts for the respective contributors.  This book had some challenges with misspellings, which are a book production issue.  

Sidebar:  A Walk-through of Some of Your Own Creative Practices  

Figure 2.  "Digital and Paper" by Mediamodifier on Pixabay 

Beyond the academic aspects, this book evokes some questions about how creativity works for the individual (and asks how self-aware people are of their own creativity).  

When to Apply 
  • How do you know when you need to innovate? 

States of Creativity:  
  • How do you limber up (or wind up) or otherwise prepare to get into a creative state?  
  • How do you train your imagination for your particular work? 
    • What inspires your creativity in particular applications?  
    • How do you maintain discipline for your creativity?  
  • What sorts of outcomes do you target your creative energy towards, and why?  
    • How do you assess whether you have achieved your goals with particular creative endeavors?  
    • At what point do you stop and know a work is finished (for the time being)?  
  • How do you take risks and step outside of known-knowns?  How do you explore known-unknowns and unknown-unknowns?  
    • How do you work to maintain multiple points of view simultaneously?  
  • When do you collaborate with others in creative tasks?  How?  Why?  
    • How is the work often shared?  

Shared Creativity 
  • How can you inspire creativity in others’ work?  

Going Public:  
  • What are public channels you use to share your creative work in the world?  
    • How do you know how much “weirdness” the world will accept and can bear?  
  • In long-term time, how are you working to ensure that your creativity does not run dry?  
    • How do you encourage persistence in yourself?  

About the Author

Shalin Hai-Jew works as an instructional designer at Kansas State University. Her email is  

Thanks!  A review copy of this book (watermarked .pdf file) was provided to the reviewer by Nova Science Publishers.  

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