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The immense importance of creativity

The repeated Sputnik shock!

Last year, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which quickly spread across the globe as the Covid-19 pandemic, had a massive impact on our lives. The population has had to deal with far-reaching changes in the lockdown. There are contact regulations. For professional groups that are not systemically relevant, the workplace will be moved to the home office. Schools and employers are digitizing communications. A lot of creative amounts, such as videos and comics, are shared on social platforms like Facebook on these new conditions. And global competition is also trying to counter the pandemic through creative innovation. Scientists are conducting research at an unprecedented speed to develop a vaccine against the virus. The New York Times Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker lists 175 vaccine projects as of August 2020.

And then in the summer came the news from Russia that it would allow the first coronavirus vaccine (before the test program was completed). The Russians call the newly developed vaccine against coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 Sputnik V.

This says a lot about the importance of creativity for a country. With this naming, the Russians remind us that they have already once been superior to the other powers in terms of innovation. In October 1957, the then USSR sent the first satellite, called Sputnik I, into orbit around the earth. This caused the until then technologically superior USA to suffer the so-called Sputnik shock. From then on, the USA invested more in technology and research to make up for the disadvantage. Through this event, creativity research came to importance (Spiel & Westmeyer, 2004, p. 9). Another important event for creativity was the speech in 1950 by J.P. Guilford on his inauguration as president of the American Psychological Association on the topic of creativity (Westmeyer). He presents creativity as THE IMPORTANT resource on which scientific research should be done.

Even today, 70 years after Guilford’s speech, companies are forced to withstand international competition by developing new or optimized products. These products should be brought to market faster, or even better – open up new markets and satisfy customer needs in a more targeted manner. At the same time, the costs of the products must be reduced through continuous optimization of development, production and distribution. From an economic point of view, creativity thus promises advantages in international competition. From the employees’ point of view, flexibility and openness to new things are in great demand in order to adapt to changes in the market and to perform creative adaptations or innovations.

In the corona crisis, this becomes acutely visible, since immense changes and thus also adaptations have to take place suddenly and unexpectedly – although many people feel the opposite, namely shock and fear, in view of the threatening situation.

Creativity is a construct that can be viewed from many perspectives and also consists of parts to be distinguished. From self-sewn face masks, to comics about the political situation, to Sputnik 1 to 5 , from the small smile, caused by the creative view of the world, to the economic good creativity. I mainly used the word creativity. When it comes to the creative product, the word innovation is also appropriate. But what is creativity anyway?

What is creativity anyway?

Creativity, in Guilford’s definition, consists of the ability to think divergently (i.e., openly and unsystematically, playfully). Guilford divides divergent thinking into four components, problem understanding, fluidity of thought, originality, and flexibility. In addition to divergent, creative thinking, he also mentions elaboration as an important factor that determines the way in which creative solutions are developed. Guilford defines creativity as an ability and thus as a person characteristic (Seligman, Rashid, & Parks).

The psychologist Csikszentmihalyi describes creativity as an interaction of system, domain, and recognized environment, and his definition goes beyond describing creativity as a personality variable (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).

Sternberg and Lubart (1999, pp. 3-15) describe creativity as the creation of works that are both novel and appropriate. It is not enough to create something new; the new thing must also be useful and usable to be considered creative.

Theresa Amabile, in her Componential Theory of Creativity, divides creativity into four components. Three components lie in the person, such as the expertise a person has in a field, personality style, such as openness to experience, flexibility, and independence, and intrinsic motivation for a task. According to Amabile, there is also the component of the social environment as a fourth variable that comes from outside (Amabile, 1996).

A common classification of creativity distinguishes between extraordinary creativity (Big C) and everyday creativity (small c) (KAUFMAN & STERNBERG). Everyday creativity is of personal individual benefit to the creative individual who derives an advantage from creatively solving problems and processing experiences. As in improvisation, which is needed both in cooking and in the workplace (Stein, 1953). Meanwhile, exceptional creative performance is recognized when it has a benefit that goes beyond the good of the individual and is meaningful to others (Boden, 2004).

The scientist Mel Rhodes divided creativity into four elements. The creative person, the creative process, the creative product and the creative environment all describe factors that promote creativity or are prerequisites for creativity (Rhodes, 1961, pp. 305-310). Thus, a work of art or an innovation always emerges in a particular culture at a particular time. On the one hand, the environment evaluates the creative product and thus decides whether an innovation is seen as creative. At the same time, we live in a constantly changing environment and we are forced to react through change and adapt through creative change performance.

Due to the emergence of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the external environment is changed. The way we live social contacts, how we enjoy culture, how we love and die…many things are new. We behave more detached and attentive in social contact than before. The economic national impact will have European and global consequences. How countries treat each other in crisis affects relationships not only in crisis, but beyond. It makes a difference whether the most obvious quickest course is chosen in panic and desperation, or whether effort and time are invested in the creative development of a helpful innovation. The recent crisis suggests that investing in creativity pays off.

“It is a question of whether societies as a whole are prepared to think bigger and further than the one edge of the plate.“ (Frank Richter)

The crisis proves to us that we can only work together, and yet competition is driven by scarcity. What should globalization look like that ensures peaceful interaction between countries? The Corona virus has made us aware of our vulnerability. What does that do to our dealings with each other? The lockdown has limited us. How do I use my time? Will capitalist growth be infinitely possible? What are the benefits of digitalization and to what extent does digital media influence our perception and thus our reality? There is enough to shape. We have a wealth of experience, but my hope is that we don’t just shape the future by extrapolating existing data, but that we are creative and take a small (at least mental) leap beyond existing into the new.

Eva Weisse, coach at dynaMIND



Amabile, T. M. (1996). Creativity in context: Update to” The Social Psychology of Creativity.”.

Boden, M. A. (2004). The creative mind: Myths and mechanisms: Psychology Press.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New Yprk. In: Harper Collins. http://www. bioenterprise. ca/docs/creativity-bymihaly ….

KAUFMAN, J. C., & STERNBERG, R. J. The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity.

Rhodes, M. (1961). An analysis of creativity. The Phi Delta Kappan, 42(7), 305-310.

Seligman, M. E., Rashid, T., & Parks, A. C. Peterson, C., & Seligman, MEP (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association and Oxford University Press. American Psychologist, 51, 1072-1079.

Spiel, C., & Westmeyer, H. (2004). Kreativität: Eigenschaft oder Relation. M. Held, G. Kubon-Gilke, R. Sturm, Jahrbuch Normative und institutionelle Grundfragen der Ökonomik, 255-279.

Stein, M. I. (1953). Creativity and culture. The journal of psychology, 36(2), 311-322.

Sternberg, R. J., & Lubart, T. I. (1999). The concept of creativity: Prospects and paradigms. Handbook of creativity, 1, 3-15.