There is a misconception among many people – including many technical people – that technical people are not “creative.” This is not only wrong but detrimental because any problem-solving involves creativity. To the extent that technical problem solvers buy into the idea that they are not (cannot be) creative, they deny themselves the advantages that are to be had by studying and applying creative skills.
In work published by British researcher Michael Kirton, creativity is seen as a continuum that ranges from innovator creatives on one end to adaptor creatives on the other. Innovator creatives are the kind of creatives that are traditionally identified as such. They are paradigm breakers, bending rules to allow for innovative solutions to problems and novel approaches to creative ventures. They are non-conformists who seek the fresh, new approaches that lead to different creations.
But the innovators do not inhabit the creative world alone. There is a continuum that extends from them toward another type of creative thinkers. Known as adaptor creatives, these folks operate their creative efforts in a different way. Where the innovator creative thinks “outside the box” in pursuit of creative solutions, the adaptor is busy improving the box. Rather than setting asides the rules, the adaptor is applying and improving them.
This is not the common picture of a creative. But, the adaptor is just as much a creative as the innovator. This is significant because it opens the benefits of the study and use of creative techniques to the adaptor. Once thought to be the tools of the innovator alone, these techniques can leverage the problem-solving work of the adaptor creator as well.
Many technical problem-solvers fall onto the adaptor side of the creative continuum. The realization that they are creatives frees adaptors to engage in the processes of successful creatives. It opens the doors to an awareness and use of the world of creative techniques. With those techniques comes the promise of higher-quality creative problem-solving.
One of the most powerful concepts from the study of creativity is that of divergent thinking. Technical problem-solvers are solidly grounded in the techniques of analytical thinking. They are skilled at evaluating alternatives, making choices, and selecting solutions. Divergent thinking focuses on the generation of alternatives from which these choices are made.
The study of creativity reveals the necessity of suspending critical judgment in order to pave the way for divergent thinking and its benefits. Just the understanding that their powerful critical thinking skills can restrict the generation of alternatives and reduce the richness of their field of choices can be a powerful help to adaptor creatives. Add to that understanding the techniques for divergent thinking and the choices become even richer. This makes the adaptor creative a much more powerful problem solver.
It is a principle of psychology that people cannot go where they cannot imagine themselves going. The realization that they are creatives is a powerful game changer for the technical/adaptor problem solver. It opens a new world to them. The study and the act of embracing creative techniques is a significant tool for any problem solver. The first step to the acquisition of that tool is the recognition of the role as a creative. Taking that step is possible and productive.