Creative Identity

Creative Identity

Developing Your Creative Mindset & Skillset

What Do We Mean By Creativity?

Creativity is defined differently depending on the time, the place, and who you ask. In IDEAS Academy, we define creativity as the ability to have new and valuable ideas.1 This is an expansive understanding that includes both the ability to create the Mona Lisa and other artistic or scientific breakthroughs as well as the creativity that you use to navigate your day. Although some people distinguish between big “C” and little “c” kinds of creativity, our current scientific understanding tells us that our brain does not make this distinction–both kinds of activity are creative. This has big implications for what it means is possible for every human being to develop their own creativity and apply it towards positive goals.2

Why Creativity Important is Important Today

We spend a lot of time on creativity and how it leads to innovation at the beginning of IDEAS Academy. And although creativity is worthy of study on its own, there are some big reasons that it is specifically important for us today:

  1. Many industries are in the midst of massive disruption and transition directly related to the advances in digital technology. This is an existential threat to existing organizations that cannot adapt quickly enough. They need creative employees who can help them innovate to find new business models and stay relevant. 3
  2. Complex global issues threaten us at multiple levels today–social, environmental, and economic. To create a more responsible, equitable, we must reinvent our way of life to make it more sustainable for the planet and for future generations. This challenge requires local innovation by creative people from around the globe working together towards common goals.4
  3. The same technologies that threaten large organizations, can be superpowers for individuals with creative ideas.  They allow them to create positive change in the world at a scale greater than at any time in human history. The old rules of who gets to succeed in the world are being challenged by anyone with access to a personal computer, the Internet, and tools like 3D printing that give them the means to make almost anything, anywhere.

For all these reasons, there has maybe never been a need for creative people. What does this mean for you? Are you creative? Read on to answer this for yourself.

Creativity can be developed through neuroplasticity

IDEAS Academy teaches creativity as a capacity that can be developed by anyone. This is based on both the real-world experiences of those who have conceived the program and through an understanding of the latest scientific research on creativity.

Recent studies indicate that there is a distinct “high-creative” network in the human brain.5 The strength of the connections within this network appear to predict someone’s level of creative ability. Since we also know that our brains can make new neural connections over time, we should assume that we can strengthen our brain’s creative pathways.6

Leading creativity researcher Dr. Keith Sawyer explains that since most of us are capable of having ideas, we should focus on the “habits of mind” and “practices” of creative people to develop our own creativity.7 By doing this, we can develop our own unique creative identity.

The Practice of Creativity

In IDEAS Academy, we teach three categories of behaviors that can lead to realizing our creative ideas in the world:

  • Explore: An open process of discovery where we seek out experiences and learn new things. This is how we find purpose by connecting what we discover to what we care about.
  • Imagine: Where we develop our ideas into defined concepts that inform how they will best be accomplished and shared with others.
  • Create: How we bring our concepts into existence, whether as a work of art, a business product, or something else so that it can address problems and bring value to the world.
  • Iterate: Creativity is not a linear process with a beginning, middle, and end. Solutions should be constantly checked against how well they are addressing the problem and meeting needs.

The phases, like creativity, do not move in a straight line. The movement is more like a helix that spirals around the axis of an idea. You might start with exploration but may quickly switch to imagination and creativity to shape your idea and then circle back again to repeat the process.

Discover Your Unique Creative Identity

Rather than giving you a laundry list of the mindsets and skillsets we believe you should adopt, we look at creativity through the identities of three types of creative individuals:

  • The Innovator: Creative Vision
  • The Designer: Creative Process
  • The Entrepreneur: Creative Impact

Each of these provides insight into how people who have mastered their creative abailities go through the iterative process of creativity, from a sudden inspiration, to the development of their ideas, through failures and setbacks, to finally bringing forth their creations into the world where they can make a difference in the world. 

Sources and Further Reading

  1. Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation by Dr. R. Keith Sawyer
  2. The Hidden Secrets of the Creative Mind, Time
  3. Several industry reports place creativity at or near the top of their list of most in-demand skills:
  4. The United Nations’ Global Goals identify 17 areas of sustainable development to be addressed by 2030.
  5. Read the study: “Robust prediction of individual creative ability from brain functional connectivity”
  6. Learn more about “neuroplasticity”–how our brains change: “Neuroplasticity”
  7. Watch Dr. Keith Sawyer: “Unlock Your Creative Genius With These Habits”
    Download the Creative Identity Module Overview Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

    Creative Identity Lessons

    The Innovator–Creative Vision

    Innovators are visionaries who combine a curiosity and openness to the world with a playful imagination that experiments with and connects ideas to bring something new to life.

    • Discover your purpose by following your passion
    • Combine ideas across disciplines to spark the imagination
    • Manifest your creative vision in the world


    The Designer–Creative Process

    Designers follow a systematic creative process that promotes a holistic understanding of the problem and uses an iterative approach to developing workable solutions.

    • Identify the right problem through empathy with people and places
    • Problem-solve through the ideation and prototyping of diverse solutions
    • Test and refine concepts through an iterative development process

    The Entrepreneur–Creative Impact

    Entrepreneurs are problem-finders who recognize the world’s greatest challenges as opportunities to bring valuable solutions to the places they are needed the most.

    • Think big and start small to create the most impact with your ideas
    • Test your ideas by getting them out into the world and in front of people
    • Love the problem, not the solution and be ready to pivot when needed