Confusing Creativity and Imagination…the Difference is Huge

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If the name Ken Robinson sounds familiar it may be from his TED talk entitled Changing Education Paradigms (well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it). In Ken Robinson’s book “Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative,” Robinson gives his working definition and explanation of creativity and how it stands in contrast to imagination. I want to share a quote from his book that lays this out and the reason for doing so is because we live in a world that values ideas often to the neglect of action. I know I am a process person and I can very easily get caught up in thinking about something and processing it to death but I don’t always act on things the way that I should. What Ken Robinson said about creativity and imagination was paradigm shifting for me. Here is what he wrote,

“What is creativity? Let me build a definition in three steps: The first step is to recognize that being creative involves doing something. People are not creative in the abstract; they are creative in something-in mathematics, in engineering, in writing, in music, in business, in whatever. You cannot be creative unless you were actually doing something. In this respect, creativity is different from imagination.”

In other words, creativity is more than thinking cool thoughts and processing ideas. Creativity requires creating something and that means doing.

Robinson continues,

“Creative processes are rooted in imaginative thought, in envisaging new possibilities. But creativity goes further. Imagination can be an entirely private process of internal consciousness. You might be lying motionless on your bed but in a fever of imagination. Private imaginings may have no impact in the public world at all. Creativity does. It would be odd to describe someone as creative who just lay still an never did anything. Whatever the task, creativity is not just an internal mental process: it involves action. In a sense, it is applied imagination. To call somebody creative suggests they are actively producing something in a deliberate way. A first definition of creativity then is imaginative process with outcomes in the public world.” (Ken Robinson, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, 115-116).

I think he pretty much nailed it. It inspires me to be more creative rather than just imaginative. How about you?

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