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Characteristics of the Creative Individual

Here’s something a tad embarrassing. I was born on the same day as legendary inventor Thomas Edison (well, 115 year later). Ever since I realised who we was and what he accomplished in his lifetime, I grew up believeing that I too had to be as much a creative individual as he was.

Maybe that’s why I ended up in the field that I eventually did as a creative director. Perhaps more so, this is why I’ve always been fascinated with creative people. Who are they? What makes them creative? How do they remain creative?

There’s so much research on this subject it’s impossible to know where to start. But, while searching for something last night, I came across one of my favourite books on creativity, entitled Creative Thinking in the Decision and Management Sciences, by James R. Evans. Most of the book focuses on the role of creativity in quality management, but I’ve also found it to be an excellent ‘textbook’ on creative thinking.

For example, here’s Evans’ list of characteristics of the creative individual that I think is concise and accurate.

Awareness and sensitivity, in particular to problems

Notices things others do not. Knows nothing is perfect and that everything can be improved. Recognises that a problem exists without taking it personally. Cuts through details and misleading facts to find the real problem.


Has a generally good memory, perhaps more so displays remarkable powers of recall. Good retention and retrieval of information.  Has a memory bank of life’s experiences to be able to recall them for creative’s sake.


Can generate a large number of ideas easily. Can judge an excellent idea by seeing it in context with mediocre ideas.


Has an ability to generate many kinds and types of ideas. Implies a certain fluidity of information but with a lack of ‘fixedness’ or rigidity. Actively tries a variety of approaches to solve a problem.


An ability to produce unusual ideas, solve problems in unusual ways, or use things or situations in an unusual manner.

Self-discipline and persistence

Not only develops novel ideas, but works persistently to create them, improve them, and motivate themselves or others to put them into action.


Open to new ideas or experiences. Wide interests and often jumps from one to another rather easily.

Intellectual playfulness

They like to explore ideas for their own sake. They know play is not necessarily time wasted.


The ability to react spontaneously to discordance in meaning or implication. Humour is often the result of a ‘twist’ in meaning of a conventional concept.


Less conventional, has a compulsion to be different. The willingness to be different allows him or her to take risks even if there is a chance of failure. Mistakes are always seen as opportunities for developing better ideas, never as a personal failures.

Tolerance for ambiguity

Actively seeks uncertainty, complexity and disorder. But from this chaos, they also like to find patterns, relationships and insights leading to ideas.


An inner confidence in the worth of their work and a sense of mission or destiny. Can work independently and without close supervision.


Views accepted ideas with a critical eye. Often plays devil’s advocate, questioning facts and assumptions.


Has an above-average intelligence but are not necessarily near the top of the scale. Has good analysis and synthesis skills, can make complex problems simple.

Any other characteristics of the creative person you’d add?  As always please add your thoughts and comments below.

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1 Comment

  1. I agree, confidence should also be considered to evolve one’s creative thinking skills.

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Characteristics of the Creative Individual