The Elements of Creativity

Mindcamp Mindcamp 2014

by Tim Hurson

This year’s Mindcamp theme is The Elements of Creativity. But before we can tell you why, we have to start with the elements of everything else. There’s a close correspondence (some might say uncanny correspondence) between creativity and everything else.

elementsIn trying to make sense of the world, early human beings deconstructed everything else into four component parts — or elements — earth, air, fire, and water. That seemed reasonable since it was hard to find anything that wasn’t one of those things.

Thousands of years later, European alchemists looking for the Philosopher’s Stone decided they needed to add a fifth element to explain things that didn’t fit into those four categories. So they came up with a mysterious fifth element, which by the way, is where we get the word quintessential — literally the fifth essence or element. The fifth element became kind of a catchall. If something didn’t fit into either the earth, air, fire, or water buckets — let’s say time, for example — they simply plunked it into the fifth bucket. Pretty creative, really.

Which brings us to creativity. Ancient humans also had a limited view of the number of buckets that could contain human creative output. The Greeks thought there were nine — epic poetry, lyric poetry, elegiac poetry, hymns, comedy, tragedy, dance, history and astronomy — all of which were personified by beautiful young ladies. In case you’re wondering, the astronomy lady was named Urania — another pretty cool link between the elements of creativity and the other elements.

Other cultures, also thought it made sense to represent creativity with beautiful young women, like Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts and nature.

Over the centuries, philosophers and scientists have done a pretty good job of refining our understanding of the elements of everything else. We now think there are 116 — that’s 29 times as many as Aristotle thought. But when it comes to creativity, we’ve only just begun to understand the contents of that metaphorical fifth bucket.

So that’s what we’d like to explore at Mindcamp 2014. What really are the component parts of creativity? How can we understand them better? How can we put them to use? How can we refine them? How come some people seem to be able to access them more often than others? Are there some elements of creativity still waiting to be discovered?

If you want answers to these questions — or if you have answers you’d like to share — this year’s Mindcamp might just be the place for you. In fact, we’d say that when it comes to thinking about creative thinking, Mindcamp is the quintessential (ideal, consummate, exemplary, definitive, best, ultimate) experience.

Comments 2

  1. In 2005, Guy Aznar, Mark Raison and Isabelle Jacob have developed a model on creativity and the 5 elements- This model has been presented at the creaconference 3 times, ant the university of Paris René Descartes, at the creaUniversity. Isabelle Jacob has enriched the model with the model of Gianni Clochatti, and wrote some articles – A chapter prenseting the model is in her book ” lumières sur la créativité”. I am currently writing a book dedicated to this theme whith its different uses: a a catalyst, as a clusterisation tool, in management, …
    Unfortunately, I wont be able to attend mindcamp – I would have loved to propose a workshop on that theme

    love to you all


  2. Post

    Perhaps Guy can be persuaded to give us a taste? I believe he is thinking of coming this year. So sorry we won’t see you at Mindcamp, but we look forward to the day that we will… Perhaps in 2015? Meanwhile some of us at least look forward very much to seeing you at CREA 🙂 Much love to our dear CREA France friends!

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