When it comes to research around “Creative Thinking”, four standard approaches prevail (The 4 P’s of Creativity):
So what are the 4 P’s of Creativity?
Born this way
The first approach is the Person approach. This approach suggests that innovation is a characteristic inherent in naturally creative people. Either you’re born with it, or you’re not. Some of us have it, and some of us don’t. Managers who subscribe to this view tend to recruit innovative people into the company and assume that these creative people will be the standard bearers of creativity and creative thinking within the organization. For example, creative departments in advertising agencies often lean towards the Person approach – they look for people “born creative.”
The second approach is the Process approach. This approach suggests that there are particular processes that promote creativity. Take Brainstorming for example. This method says that if you create a process which gathers people from different disciplines, put someone in charge of facilitating the discussion, suspend judgment when coming up with ideas, put emphasis on the quantity not quality of ideas, and build on the ideas of others, then you’ll get to some good ideas upon which you can build your work plan. Similar to Brainstorming, there are a variety of other methods which you can adopt in order to reach creative thinking. For instance, Function Follows Form by SIT, emphasizes the voice of a product, instead of the voice of the customer.
The third approach is the Product approach. This approach suggests that creative thinking can come from anyone, meaning that the source for creativity isn’t the person or the process, rather it’s the characteristics of the creative product itself that serves as the source of successful new creative ideas. Try this: take a sample of, let’s say, ten successful innovative products from different categories and examine what they have in common. Ask yourself what it is that makes them more “creative” as compared to other less creative products. If you succeeded in finding commonalities amongst the creative products that are lacking in non-creative ones, you have discovered something important. The next step would be to turn these shared characteristics into a “tool” that could help you create similar successful yet creative ideas in the future. This would be a Product approach pathway for arriving at creative thinking and creative solutions.
The fourth and final approach relates to the environment in which the person operates. That is, there are certain conditions that are enhanced by the organizational culture and resources that are around us. According to Amabile (1983), even though everyone can be creative, certain environments are more influential determinants. Therefore, companies can create an atmosphere that will foster creativity and innovation from within.
Summary of the 4 P’s of Creativity
Generally speaking, you can find most of these approaches in any organization: a combination of “creative people”, processes aimed at encouraging new initiatives, and analyses of current successes with the goal of creating templates for future success. However, one of these approaches can always be identified as being more dominant than the other.
Can you identify which approach characterizes your creativity today? Through utilizing the 4P’s approach, how would you manage your strategy differently in the future?