Are you creative? Very few of us think we are. In fact, when many of us think about creativity, we often conjure up images of musicians, artists, and writers—the mystical “creatives” who we dream about being, but never dreamed we could actually be.
Sadly, we rarely allow ourselves to imagine that we might actually be the creative ones. Or that we might be able to benefit from our creative abilities in a number of interesting and important ways—whether completing an otherwise boring homework assignment, crafting a witty email to a friend, or devising a game plan to break an opposing team’s stifling half-court press.
The truth is that most of us do not realize what unique creative abilities we hold and the interesting ways in which they can be applied. Worse still, lacking an adequate understanding of our own creativity, we very often place ourselves at a disadvantage when building careers, attending staff meetings, or even deciding what (or how) to prepare for dinner. After all, how can we effectively develop and apply our creativity if we do not understand our own unique creative strengths and potentials?
We developed the VAST Creative Abilities Indicator (VCAI) in response to these concerns. While we appreciate forms of assessment based on self-reporting and self-perception, we also believe that the best way to understand and develop creativity is to set it in motion—and view it in action. In this spirit, the VCAI asks users to complete a small set of interactive, hands-on challenges that allow respondents to showcase their actual creative abilities and talents. The short version of the test takes only 15 minutes to complete, offering a small set of tasks whose results are evaluated by trained scorers to determine an individual’s current creative strengths and potentials. The tasks include a variety of different cues—verbal, visual, spatial—in order to identify different aspects and kinds of creativity.
VAST is also continuing its development of an automated creative strengths finder, based on new software algorithms designed to detect creative markers within submitted work. Automated results of creative strengths are made available to users immediately upon completion of the provided challenges. Since users respond to a variety of cues as they work on challenges, the automated results also include a description of the different forms of creativity identified within submissions.
Though we certainly would not want to remove the essential human element from creativity evaluation and enjoyment (nor, we would argue, is this possible), the automated assessment offers a number of interesting benefits and opportunities. As mentioned above, users receive feedback and results instantly. The results themselves provide the basis for future individualized, self-paced creativity training and development—creative brain training, if you will. Perhaps best of all, however, the cost of administering the short version of the automated assessment within organizations is extremely low compared to traditional methods of talent evaluation—and free for use in education. Combined with human scoring, we believe this automated, cloud-based approach to creativity evaluation—a form of blended assessment—holds great promise in evaluating creativity quickly, yet effectively, within both education and business. Using this system, we are now beginning to map the creative abilities of K12 students in Montana, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts, hoping to find hotspots of creativity where one might least expect them, perhaps in a disadvantaged school or otherwise neglected school district. We are excited about the possibilities.
We should also be careful to note that we see creativity assessment as a beginning rather than an end, a way to discover creative strengths and an opportunity to better develop the creative capacities that each of us holds. As researchers and evaluators, we are very careful not to get caught within popular webs of misconception that view creativity as an innate individual gift rather than a shared human ability—an ability that we firmly believe can be further developed with better practice, learning, and understanding.
So do you know your current creative strengths and abilities? If not, what might you be missing?