Creativity: person product, process

There seems some value in categorising creativity as person, product and process. It covers all aspects of creativity, clearly defines these aspects and is easy to remember. Turning first to product; there is clearly a close if not essential link with all products to the person (or group of individuals working very closely together) that created it. All creative products/outcomes are the result of the actions of an individual/s. 

Interestingly it is very often possible to identify the creator from the created outcome alone. An observer familiar with the works of Rembrandt, Beethoven or Frank Lloyd Wright will likely be able to identify a work by them that they were previously unfamiliar with, from the style of the work alone. In this way the creator and the created product are linked by the approach, technical ability, education, social background as well as the creative mind – the creative process of the creator. Thus the creative person and product could be seen as the creative process manipulated by the prevailing culture.

It is difficult to accept that a visionary such as Leonardo da Vinci would have painted the Virgin on the rocks if he had been born in the 20th century. Leonardo was characterised by his creativity, his ability to invent, innovate and develop new techniques. Had he lived through the 10960/70s say, It is hard to see him feeling it appropriate to paint in the style of past masters.  He would surely have felt more affinity with the likes of Rothko, Pollock or Henry Moore. A late 20th century Mozart might well have produced music more akin to the Rolling Stones and a 17th century innovator like Phillip Glass is more likely to have composed music familiar to the tastes of lovers of JS Bach than the minimalism we are familiar with. It is not difficult to imagine Caravaggio as a Hollywood director or Artemisia Gentileschi as a 20th century Georgia O’Keeffe and a 20th century Brunelleschi would surely be as admired and influential an architect as Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid. What we can be reasonably certain of is that none of the above creative individuals would have produced the same outcomes if their time, place and influence had been significantly different. 

The same could be said of scientists or mathematicians. Their work is possible because – to paraphrase Isacc Newton – they stood on the shoulders of giants. Einstein’s theories developed from the known perihelion precession anomaly of the orbit of Mercury, which could  not be explained by Newton’s laws. 

Interestingly the one field where prevailing culture may hold less influence over the creative individual is philosophy. While many philosophical ideas do build on earlier insights, that thinkers such as Laozi, Gautama and Socrates had ideas that are still seen as directly relevant today suggests that they may indeed have been able to free themselves from the constrictions of their culture. But putting those honorable exceptions to one side, for the most part it seems that creators and the artifacts they create are prisoners of their culture. 

The key to the hypothesis that creative individuals would be as likely to be creative if they were born in different times – given the appropriate resources – is that their creativity – their creative process – would remain unaltered. That is to say the creative process is the constant feature rather than the individual who uses it or the products they produce.

Of person, product and process it seems, from this analysis at least, while individuals and the products they create come and go influenced by their cultural winds; the creative process is the unchanging constant mechanism that underpins the possibilities of the other two. 

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