The Calculated Creative

Rating Creativity

The spark of creativity can be difficult to systematically evaluate because of its inherent unpredictability and intangibility.

Creativity is often seen as this mystical, undefinable quality that some people are born with and others are not.

But I think we can actually develop a systematic approach to rate creativity in people's work and ideas if we approach it with an open and optimistic perspective.

We just need to adjust some common assumptions.

Define Creativity Broadly

Creativity should not be limited to traditionally "creative" domains like the arts, writing, painting, etc. We need to recognize that creativity can manifest in science, business, engineering - any field where people are solving problems or making something new. Fundamentally, creativity is about the ability to generate ideas or products that are novel and potentially useful in some way. When we define it this broadly, we can train our eyes to spot moments of creativity in places we would normally overlook. We might see a creative insight arise during an engineering design session, for example, or creativity expressed in a new business model. Opening our minds to creativity across all disciplines allows us to appreciate it wherever human ingenuity emerges.

Focus on the Creative Process, Not Just the Outcome

When evaluating creativity, we tend to just look at the final product or idea. But there is so much richness in the creative process itself, not just the end result. Part of rating creativity more effectively is examining the process behind creative work: how did the ideas evolve? How did the creator branch out conceptually and make mental leaps? There is creativity to be appreciated even in failed or imperfect work, if the process itself was exploratory and boundary pushing. Sometimes the creative process is messy and nonlinear. But by observing the process and not just the outcome, we can gain a deeper admiration for creativity demonstrated along the way at each junction where the problem or idea could have been approached differently. Honoring process encourages even more creative exploration in the future.

Cultivate an "Innocent Eye" When Evaluating Ideas

Our instincts often lead us to shut down ideas too quickly before giving them a fair chance. To rate creativity accurately, we need to approach unusual ideas with an innocent, unbiased perspective - at least initially. That means not judging early on whether an idea seems too bizarre, unlikely, or just plain "wrong." Creative ideas often appear completely unviable or odd at first glance! We need to give them space and time to percolate before making conclusions. Train yourself to first entertain unusual connections with childlike curiosity when encountering a new idea. Be open to surprise, delight, and revelation, rather than rushing to categorize something as silly or unworkable. By embracing this innocent eye, you leave room for creativity to flourish before your analytical mind criticizes.

Quantify Less Tangible Markers of Creativity

Of course, observing and rating creativity requires going beyond counting standard metrics like sales figures, cost savings, or profit from creative ideas. To capture evidence of creativity, we need to quantify some of its less tangible expressions unfolding through a project: How many diverse scenarios or alternatives did the team imagine? How much concept remixing and recombination occurred in the solution development process? Can you detect paradigm breaking shifts in thinking from the status quo? Tracking markers like these help reveal the expansive exploration underlying creative work. Though there is subjectivity involved, identifying signs of playful, unconstrained exploration can bolster creativity ratings.


The Takeaway

The spark of creativity can be difficult to systematically evaluate because of its inherent unpredictability and intangibility.

But if we broaden our perspective and train our eye to spot creative moments in unexpected places, we can better appreciate creativity all around us.

By shifting focus to the nonlinear process and giving unusual ideas time to percolate with an innocent eye, we leave room for magic to unfold.

And quantifying less obvious markers helps evidence the expansive thinking emblematic of creative breakthroughs.

Adjusting these assumptions allows creativity to be observed, nurtured and celebrated far more widely.

Make Your Work
Suck Less

Pulling back the curtain on the creative process to help make your work a little less terrible. A 3-minute read delivered each week on Monday morning.

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