Creative intelligence refers to a person’s strengths in exercising originality and artistry.
It is contrasted to two other types of intelligence in Sternberg’s triarchic theory of intelligence: practical and analytical intelligences.
Examples of creative intelligence include:
- You are imaginative and design-oriented
- You appreciate newness and originality
- You are good at thinking outside the box
- You are a problem-solver and love to come up with new solutions to your old problems
Definition of Creative Intelligence
At one time, scholars accepted a somewhat singular definition of intelligence involving doing math and having a good memory. However, Robert Sternberg’s triarchic theory of intelligence offered a more comprehensive definition that captured skills we can see in everyday life all around us.
Creative intelligence (also known as experiential intelligence) is one component of Sternberg’s triarchic theory of intelligence, which also includes analytical intelligence and practical intelligence.
Here is how Howard et al. (2001, p. 49) define creative intelligence:
“Creative abilities are those involved in creating, designing, discovering, or inventing. Creative thinking entails applying problem-solving processes to relatively novel and unfamiliar problems.”
Creative intelligence involves the ability to discover new applications or ways of understanding. The ability to “imagine if…” and “suppose that…” are qualities of thinking that are unique to people who have creative intelligence.
Examples of Creative Intelligence
1. Writing a T.V. Series
Writing an episode for a television show is easy. Writing an episode for a television show that tells an interesting story and will captivate the audience is quite another. Not only that, if it is a television series, then it means it has to be done every week for an entire season.
Of course, in reality a show is not written by just one individual. There is a whole team of writers, maybe even as many as ten or twelve. They feed off of each other’s ideas and energy. Then the cast will do a read-through to see how it feels. That will give the writers some more ideas and show them where they need to make changes.
Despite the fact that it is a process that involves lots of people, it is still a job that requires a lot of creative intelligence.
2. Installation Art
Perhaps the most obvious example of creative intelligence is producing a work of art. That could mean a painting or sculpture. Or, it could involve other forms of artistic expression, such as creating installation art.
Installation art involves transforming a three-dimensional space to generate a different perception and experience for the patrons of the exhibit. It can be an indoor or outdoor installation and often includes mixed media, such as audio and dynamic visual images.
The patrons will undergo an experiential exercise that will hopefully help them reach a new realization, either on an individual level or on a broader scale involving a global issue.
Because it requires so many different artistic elements, brought together in unique ways, it is an excellent example of creative intelligence.
3. Innovation in Science and Technology
Sometimes it is fun to make a list of history’s greatest inventions. Yes, it is kind of a pointless exercise, but it is entertaining nonetheless.
At the core of each invention was a novel way of looking at a problem. Often the person that gets credit with the invention will be quick to point out that the end-product was actually the result of a lot of trial and error. It also required utilizing many other inventions that were necessary in order for theirs to work.
Although we like to think of an inventor as a creative genius that just discovers a great idea one day and then makes it the next, the reality is that most great inventions took a lot of time and the ideas of a lot of people.
For an interesting historical context of the greatest inventions see: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/inventions-what-are-the-10-greatest-of-our-time/
4. Divergent Thinking
To think divergently is to generate an unusual solution to a very specific problem. The process involves trying to think of as many ways to solve a problem as possible, and then identify the one with the greatest likelihood of success. It is similar to brainstorming, but the goal is more focused on generating unusual solutions.
Sometimes large corporations will conduct highly specialized training for executives or personnel in the R&D department. This kind of training can involve going to an isolated camp for several days or even a week to get out of the usual environment. The participants will engage in various activities that are far-removed from those they do in a typical day at work.
The goal is to break the shackles of the routine workday to foster spontaneity and open-mindedness.
Musicians are considered some of the most creative people we have amongst us. They can take a piece of wood with metal strings on it, and produce sounds so pleasant that they put us in a blissful trance.
A skilled musician can do this just by playing whatever comes to their mind. It’s not a well-rehearsed song that took them weeks to learn. Somehow, someway, they just put themselves in a stream of consciousness and the notes just flow from their fingertips. If you think about, that really is amazing.
Of all the examples of creative intelligence, a good argument could be made that creating original music that flows effortlessly from moment to moment is the purest example of creative intelligence.
6. Cross Application
Cross application is taking something that we know in one situation, and then applying it to another situation that is completely different. Many fantastic inventions, and some useful household items, were the direct result of cross application.
For example, the toes of a tree frog helped one engineer design a robot that can climb walls. Velcro was inspired by those annoying burrs that stick on our pants when we take a walk through the woods.
In fact, cross application of nature has resulted in an entire scientific field of study called biomimicry, or natural simulation technology. You can learn about other nature-inspired inventions here:
7. Making Kindergarten Lesson Plans
Most people do not realize how much creative intelligence is needed to make a school lesson plan. First, the teachers has to think of how to put the educational objectives into practice.
The lesson also has to be presented in a way that the age group will understand. Most importantly, it has to be interesting enough that the children don’t get bored. This is the step where creative intelligence comes most into play.
The teacher might design an activity for the kids that will get them out of their seats. Arts and crafts are another way to capture children’s interests. Or, the teacher might even write a song for the kids that is a clever way for them to remember key concepts (e.g., think of the song Dry Bones written by James Weldon Johnson and his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson).
8. Graphic Design
Graphic design is an example of a profession that requires the constant use of creative intelligence. Each project involves selecting the right images, typography, and color scheme to match the look and feel described by the client.
For example, every brand has an image that has to be represented in the design. The company’s logo is vital to its image. The graphic designer has to think of a clever way of conveying the company’s purpose in an image that also contains elements of the company’s name.
Assembling all of the necessary components in a way that is visually appealing can be very challenging. Graphic design is a classic example of creative intelligence in advertising and marketing.
9. The Aha moment
There are several different manifestations of the aha moment. One of them is when a person suddenly thinks of a solution to a vexing problem. Maybe it was a very complex problem they had been trying to solve for days or weeks. Then, when they least expected it, the solution just suddenly “pops” into their mind.
Other versions of the aha moment include having a penetrating insight into an abstract quandary or understanding an issue in a way that had eluded you before. Aha moments on a less significant scale might include suddenly remembering the name of a song, or being able to cite a famous quote.
The aha moment is a great example of a burst of creative intelligence.
Some professions utilize more than one component of Sternberg’s triarchic theory of intelligence. Architecture is one of them. To create a beautiful house or a large commercial structure not only requires a great imagination, but it also has to be combined with knowledge of physics and structural engineering.
The architect needs to be able to predict how the space will be perceived by the people that use it. What kind of emotional responses will the structure evoke? How does the physical space affect experience?
The architect has to engage in the hypothetical as well. Will it meet people’s practical needs and be easy to live or work in? What is the right balance between form and function?
These are all considerations that rely on creative intelligence and are used by architects on every project.
Analytical vs Practical vs Creative Intelligences
|Analytical skills||Design skills||You can utilize tools to get things done|
|Evaluative skills||You like to compose and collate||You like to implement ideas|
|You can explain things well||You enjoy discovering new things||You enjoy problem-solving|
|You can critique ideas||You are highly imaginative||You want to know how to apply knowledge to real-life|
|You are good at categorizing things||You are highly inventive||You are an action-taker and feel good completing tasks|
Sternberg makes a good case for three kinds of intelligence, and creativity is one of them. There are many professions and endeavors that involve creative intelligence to some degree or another.
Teachers create engaging lessons and activities that are also educational and help students grow and develop their own intelligence. Installation art is an exercise in creating experiential transformations in patrons that are unique and transcendent.
Writing a television series that is entertaining involves creative intelligence on a consistent basis, week after week for many months. At the same time, a musician is able to produce sounds that take listeners on an emotional journey that they could never experience through any other means.
None of these endeavors are easy, and none can be accomplished without creative intelligence.
Bloom, E., & VanSlyke-Briggs, K. (2019). The Demise of Creativity in Tomorrow’s Teachers. Journal of Inquiry and Action in Education, 10(2), 90-111.
Gibson, C., Folley, B. S., & Park, S. (2009). Enhanced divergent thinking and creativity in musicians: A behavioral and near-infrared spectroscopy study. Brain and cognition, 69(1), 162-169. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2008.07.009
Howard, B. C., McGee, S., Shin, N., & Shia, R. (2001). The triarchic theory of intelligence and computer-based inquiry learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 49(4), 49-69. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02504947
Kirsch, C., Lubart, T., & Houssemand, C. (2016). Creativity in student architects: Multivariate approach. In Multidisciplinary contributions to the science of creative thinking, 175-194. Springer, Singapore.
Sternberg, R. J. (1985). Beyond IQ: A triarchic theory of human intelligence. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Lurie-Luke, E. (2014). Product and technology innovation: What can biomimicry inspire? Biotechnology advances, 32(8), 1494-1505. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biotechadv.2014.10.002