Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Puzzle 2. The Contingent Nature of Creative Processes

As I mentioned in the last post, puzzles in creativity are (1) the intrinsic nature of creativity, (2) the contingent nature of creative processes, and (3) the difference of creativity between individual and group.

Today, I shall explain the second puzzle, that is the contingent nature of creative process.

2. The Contingent Nature of Creative Processes

During the last several decades, scientists have tried to make a measurement for creativity, however it turns out the difficulty due to the contingent nature of creativity. Sources of discoveries are quite diverse and depends on circumstances, for example, logical deduction, induction, abduction, analogy, metaphor, inspiration, and just by accident. Even if investigating into the detail of creative processes from the viewpoint of sources, one cannot succeed to get anything universal. In other words, creative processes do not follow deterministic laws, but also not happen at random.

In addition, creative processes often are built on several discoveries, and they contain not only good ideas, but also finally wrong or useless ideas. As Keith Sawyer pointed out about successful innovators as follows:
"They succeed by way of many small sparks, and by drawing on collaboration over time to build those sparks into something tremendous. Many of the idea turn out to be wildly off the mark, but it turns out many not-so-good ideas are needed on the way to that rare great idea." (Sawyer 2007: p.105).
Indeed, for example Charles Darwin produced many ideas that are not only weird but also wrong in hindsight. As Sawyer said, however, these ideas also played an important role that contributes to his “creative” outcome.
"Even Darwin's dead ends provided critical links in the chain; the monad theory was wrong, but it led to Darwin's branching model of evolution. His work on hybridization led nowhere, but as a side-effect he learned about artificial selection, which he later realized was a man-made version of natural selection. His theory of coral reef formation, developed years before he'd even thought about evolution, had the same formal structure as the theory of evolution. Darwin had many key ideas before he realized how they would all fit together." (Sawyer 2007: p.107)

Consequently, it is necessary to take the contingent nature into account, if one intends to build a theory to explain the nature of creative processes. I think, for the purpose, describing a sequence of discoveries as autonomous and historical process is an appropriate way.

Iba, T. (2009). An Autopoietic Systems Theory for Creativity, This first conference on Collaborative Innovation Networks (COINs).
Sawyer, R.K. (2007). Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration, Basic Books.

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