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Defining creativity

In 1950, a leading psychologist lamented that only a small proportion of professional literature was concerned with creativity.

Within a decade, a 'creativity movement' developed. Seminars on 'creative engineering' were held, asking what creativity is, why it's important, what factors influence it, how it should be developed. There was never a consensus about whether particular definitions were right, but sentiment settled around a substantive link between creativity and the idea of divergent thinking. People were thought to be creative if they could branch out and imagine a range of possible solutions.

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By its nature, creativity is individual, eccentric, and antagonistic to attempts to plan to organise it. An effort to manage creative people might result in only getting the appearance of creativity.

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  • Creativity, as a power belonging to an individual, doesn't go back very far. The first recorded usage of the word creativity came from the Oxford English Dictionary in the 17th century: 'In Creation, we have God and his Creativity.'
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The military was a key factor in creativity's Cold War history, particularly American history.

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Marketing expert Theodore Levitt published an essay in 1963, 'Creativity is not enough.' Levitt stated that creativity might be a source of new ideas, but it is not ideal for good business outcomes. There is no short supply of new ideas.

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The rise of creativity has continued since the Cold War. Many expert practices have been incorporated into the everyday life of organisations committed to producing useful novelty.

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