The search for a psychometric test of creativity has been a holy grail of test publishers and developers.
Such things do exist: the most famous is the Torrance Tests Of creative Ability. But none of them are widely used. The reason is, I think, that creativity is difficult to define and therefore measure: is it the ability to come up with lots of ideas?; the unusualness of the ideas you come up with? Should you expect creativity to be on tap or dependent on mood (in which case it will be extra difficult to test for!).
We, sort of, know creativity when we see it but it slips through our fingers when we try to start defining it. Which is why, although my working life has been bound up with testing (and, as a performing poet, with the arts) I now believe the search for individual creativity is the wrong emphasis.
The best way to cope with creativity is to do it just as the best way to write a novel, is to start writing a novel, not to sit around worrying about how to do it.
Here are a few points.
• If you have really creative people in the right job they’ll be creative whatever you do. Your job is to catch their ideas, evaluate then junk the 95% of off-the-wall fantasies and enact the 5% that are brilliant. Let them get on with it.
• Concentrate on the group aspects of creativity; the fact that in the right forum, with the right rules and processes, everyone can contribute to creative enterprises. This is somewhere you as a manager can have an impact…
• …and what’s influenced me in this thinking is Edward de Bono’s work which provides a great framework for getting on with it.
We’re trapped by a view of creativity as an individual matter: the domain of the poet, painter, research scientist. These people exist. As a manager your job is to create a good environment and step clear. But there’s another way of creating and the best paradigm is making a film. Lots of people are involved. They have to be organised. Detail as well as sweep are important. Process is king. Meetings progress ideas, they don’t get in the way. As a manager you’re a film producer. It’s an immensely complicated job but you sometimes end up producing the organisational equivalent of Citizen Kane (or Star Wars).