J.P. (Joy Paul) Guilford American was a psychologist known for his psychometric study of human intelligence with the United States military and later for his work on convergent and divergent thoughts in the realm of creativity. His service with the U.S. Army during World War II he worked on psychological testing on trying to determine the testing of pilot applicants and who would make it successfully through pilot training. Following the war, he took a post as a Professor at USC where he continued his work on psychometric testing and uncovered his insights of divergent thinking with creative individuals (J.P. Guilford, 2017).
Divergent thinking, or attempting to generate multiple solutions to an issue, was found to be a key asset for pilots but also holds true for creative people. Guilford later codified the characteristics of divergent thinker. These consisted of a fluency to produce many ideas; flexibility in their ability to propose a variety of ideas; originality in that the ideas that they produced; and an elaboration of these ideas into a systemized and organized structure (Guilford, 1959).
A modern example of divergent thinking brings to light the Cuban missile crisis. While John F. Kennedy was a relatively young and untested President, he was faced with a catastrophic decision that would start World War III or calm the impending storm. The following days consisted of his staff of advisors reviewing multiple scenarios of actions and potential outcomes speculating on what the best response would be. This search through multiple possibilities led to determining the right solution that eventually led to the crisis subsiding (Cuban Missle Crisis, 2019).
Act of Creation
Arthur Koestler was a Hungarian born, British author. His claim to fame was his writing of the novel “Darkness at Noon” which was a disgruntled view of how the Soviet Union applied communism going against the true intentions of the philosophy. Later in his career, he wrote the book “The Act of Creation” which focused specifically on innovation. There he described the term bisociation of what resonates with scholars today (Arthur Koestler, 2019).
Koestler concluded that there is a conceptual blending in the creative process where two unrelated ideas are blended into one to create something new. This took two unrelated ideas or objects and would deliver the unexpected. He coined the term biosociation because of this blending technique which he felt was more than just a simple association of ideas (Koestler, 1967).
In practice, this looks like many of the world’s modern-day products where bundling and combinations have created the new and unexpected. A prime example is in the music industry where there are many genres. Opera was born out of the Renaissance and has continued to be a national treasure of Italy. It is an art form that combines the vocals of a tenor with a classical orchestra. On the opposite spectrum, alternative music was a style of music coming out of the 1980s that did not fit into the mainstream genres of the time, it was neither rock and roll, nor was it pop music. In 1995 the alternative band U2 paired with legendary opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti to create the song “Miss Sarajevo” which blended both art forms to create a hybrid style of music.
In 1992, Steven Smith, Thomas Ward, and Ronald Finke collaborated to develop their creative cognition approach to creativity. Published in their book, “The Creative Cognition Approach,” the trio proposed that creativity is a two-phased approach whereby individuals or groups experience generativity of mental constructions; in the second phase, they use these structures to build upon and create innovative ideas (Finke, Ward, & Smith,, 1992). This comes from the camp in which the belief is that all new and creative ideas are based upon the scaffolding of another idea and can become predictable in nature (Ward, 2001).
A relevant example would be to follow the timelines of communication and personal computing. The telegraph invented in the 1830s by Samuel Morse to communicate over long distances was later reinvented as the telephone in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell. This eventually led to the mobile phone which is prominent for most of the Earth’s population. Similarly, early computers were industrial sized machines used for data processing. These later became the Cray supercomputers to handle greater data processing which later resulted in the next leap to the personal computer where every household could have this capability. This highlights the scaffolding of ideas into creating based off previous ideas. To reference back to bisociation, when you combined the mobile phone with the mobile computer, the result is the smartphone.
Arthur Koestler. (2019, May 19). Retrieved from Encyclopaedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Arthur-Koestler
Cuban Missle Crisis. (2019, May 19). Retrieved from John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum: https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/jfk-in-history/cuban-missile-crisis
Finke, R., Ward, T., & Smith, S. (1992). Creative Cognition. Boston, MA: MIT Press.
Guilford, J. (1959). Traits of Creativity. In H. E. Anderson, Creativity and Its Cultivation (pp. 142-161). New York, NY: Harper & Row.
J.P. Guilford. (2017, July 11). Retrieved from New World Encyclopedia: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/J._P._Guilford
Koestler, A. (1967). The Act of Creation. London, U.K.: Last Century Media.
Ward, T. B. (2001). Creative Cognition, Conceptual Combination, and the Creative Writing of Stephen R. Donaldson. American Psychologist, 350-354.
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