Discuss the meaning and aspects of creativity. Explain the Investment and Confluence theory of creativity.

Discuss the meaning and aspects of creativity. Explain the Investment and Confluence theory of creativity. 

Creativity, the most advanced form of thinking, involves generating unique and innovative ideas that are highly applicable to a given situation. It is distinct from intelligence and is considered a separate construct, although it is not limited to cognitive or intellectual abilities or behaviors. Creativity encompasses a wide range of factors, including motivational conditions, personality traits, environmental influences, chance occurrences, and even the resulting products or outcomes.

Meaning and Aspects of Creativity

Creativity is a form of thinking that is goal-oriented and characterized by its unusual, novel, and useful nature. Many creative ideas have had such a significant impact on human civilization that they are considered historical milestones. Examples of such ideas include the Mona Lisa, the laws of thermodynamics, the laws of motion, and the theory of relativity. These concepts were previously unimagined and brought about profound changes in their respective fields. Despite its acknowledged existence and importance, defining creativity has proven to be a challenging task for researchers.

Newell, Shaw, and Simon (1963) have put forth the following four criteria to explain the nature of creativity:

a) Novelty and usefulness

b) Rejection of previously accepted ideas

c) Requires intense motivation and persistence

d) Results from organizing unclear situations into coherent, clear, and innovative ways.

Sternberg (2006) reports five commonalities in the research of creativity. These are:
1) Creativity involves thinking that aims at producing ideas or products that are relatively novel and that are, in some respect, compelling.
2) Creativity has some domain-specific and domain-general elements in the sense that it needs some specific knowledge, but there are certain elements of creativity that cut across different domains.
3) Creativity is measureable, at least to some extent.
4) Creativity can be developed and promoted.
5) Creativity is not highly rewarded in practice, as it is supposed to be in theory

Investment and Confluence Theory of Creativity

Sternberg (2006) has presented the investment and confluence theory as a framework for understanding creativity. According to the investment theory, creativity is reliant on the convergence of six distinct yet interconnected resources: intellectual abilities, knowledge, thinking styles, personality, motivation, and environment. While the levels of these resources contribute to individual differences, the decision to utilize a particular resource often plays a more crucial role in determining those differences.

Intellectual skills: Among the three key intellectual skills, the following are particularly significant: (a) synthetic skill, which enables the perception of problems from fresh perspectives and the ability to surpass conventional thinking, (b) analytic skill, which aids in identifying which ideas are worth pursuing and which are not, and (c) practical-contextual skill, which involves knowing how to effectively persuade others of the value of one’s ideas or “sell” them. The confluence of these three skills is vital. Analytic skill, when employed independently without the other two skills, leads to critical thinking but not necessarily creative thinking. Synthetic skill, when employed without the other two skills, results in new ideas that may lack the necessary scrutiny for improvement and practical implementation. Practical-contextual skill, in the absence of the other two skills, can lead to societal acceptance of ideas not solely based on their merit, but rather due to their impressive presentation and persuasion.

Knowledge: On one hand, having sufficient knowledge in a particular field is crucial for advancing it. Without understanding the current state of the field, progress is limited. However, on the other hand, excessive knowledge about a field can lead to a narrow and fixed perspective, preventing individuals from exploring new ways of approaching problems. In this sense, knowledge can either facilitate or impede creativity, depending on how it is utilized.

Thinking styles: Thinking styles refer to preferred ways in which individuals utilize their skills. They involve deliberate decisions on how to apply one’s available skills. Within thinking styles, a legislative style holds particular importance for creativity, as it involves a preference for thinking in new and innovative ways. It’s essential to distinguish this preference from the actual ability to think creatively since someone may have a inclination for new thinking but lack proficiency, or vice versa. Additionally, being able to think both globally and locally is beneficial for becoming a significant creative thinker. This means distinguishing the bigger picture from the details, recognizing important questions from less relevant ones.

Personality: Extensive research has demonstrated the significance of certain personality attributes in fostering creative thinking. These attributes include qualities such as the willingness to overcome obstacles, take calculated risks, tolerate ambiguity, and possess self-efficacy. Particularly, creative thinkers often challenge conventional thinking, requiring the willingness to stand apart from the crowd. It’s worth noting that none of these attributes are fixed and individuals can actively decide to overcome obstacles, take risks, and cultivate other important attributes for creative thinking.

Motivation: Intrinsic motivation, focused on the task itself, is crucial for creativity. Studies by Amabile (1983) and others have highlighted the importance of such motivation in creative work, emphasizing that individuals rarely produce truly creative output unless they genuinely enjoy what they are doing and focus on the work rather than external rewards. Motivation is not an inherent trait but a decision made by individuals. In cases where individuals need to work in areas that may not naturally interest them, they can actively choose to find aspects of the work that engage and appeal to them, thus fostering motivation.

Environment: An environment that is supportive and conducive to creative ideas is also necessary. While individuals may possess the internal resources for creative thinking, without an environment that encourages and rewards such ideas, their creative potential may remain untapped. Having opportunities for sharing and proposing ideas is crucial to actualizing the creative thinking within individuals.

Confluence: The interplay of these six components is considered essential to creativity. It is hypothesized that creativity involves more than the simple sum of an individual’s level on each component. Firstly, certain components may have threshold requirements (e.g., knowledge) below which creativity becomes unattainable, regardless of the levels in other components. Secondly, partial compensation can occur, where strength in one component (e.g., motivation) compensates for a weakness in another component (e.g., environment). Thirdly, interactions between components, such as intelligence and motivation, can multiply enhance creativity when both components are at high levels.


Sternberg’s investment and confluence theory shed light on the multiple factors that contribute to creative thinking. These include intellectual abilities, knowledge, thinking styles, personality attributes, motivation, and the surrounding environment. It is important to strike a balance in utilizing knowledge, as it can either facilitate or hinder creativity depending on how it is approached. Thinking styles play a significant role, with a legislative style emphasizing the preference for thinking in new ways. Personality attributes such as overcoming obstacles, taking risks, and tolerating ambiguity contribute to creative functioning.

Intrinsic motivation focused on the task at hand is crucial for unleashing creative potential. Additionally, a supportive and rewarding environment provides the necessary platform for creative ideas to flourish. The confluence of these components is more than a mere sum, as thresholds, compensation, and interactions among them further shape and enhance creativity. Understanding these factors can help individuals and organizations foster and nurture creativity for innovative problem-solving and advancements in various domains.

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