Who is the creative individual and where is he/she?

While we are all creative in some aspect, some people are more creative than others. How do we distinguish one from the other or do we? What should we look for when searching for creative people? While reviewing several research articles on creativity, I ran across one that might shed some light on this “creative people search.”


Creativity can be defined as the capacity to come up with new ideas to serve a purpose. Think of it as intelligence having fun! As such, creativity serves a vital role in both our personal and professional lives every day.

No wonder employers want creative employees in areas where it is essential to come up with proposals for new products and services, and new ways of doing things.

The Creative Personality

Professor Øyvind L. Martinsen at BI Norwegian Business School conducted a study some years back to develop a personality profile for creative people: Which personality traits characterize creative people? The study was conducted with 481 people with different backgrounds and consisted of various groups of “creative” people.

  • The first group of creative people consisted of 69 artists working as actors or musicians in a well-known symphony orchestra or are members of an artist’s organization with admission requirements.
  • The second group consisted of 48 students of marketing.
  • The remaining participants in the study were managers, lecturers and students in programs that are less associated with creativity than marketing.

Seven Creativity Characteristics

In his study Martinsen identified seven paramount personality traits that characterize creative people:
1. Associative orientation: Imaginative, playful, have a wealth of ideas, ability to be committed, sliding transitions between fact and fiction.
2. Need for originality: Resists rules and conventions. Have a rebellious attitude due to a need to do things no one else does.
3. Motivation: Have a need to perform, goal-oriented, innovative attitude, stamina to tackle difficult issues.
4. Ambition: Have a need to be influential, attract attention and recognition.
5. Flexibility: Have the ability to see different aspects of issues and come up with optional solutions.
6. Low emotional stability: Have a tendency to experience negative emotions, greater fluctuations in moods and emotional state, failing self-confidence.
7. Low sociability: Have a tendency not to be very considerate, are obstinate and find faults and flaws in ideas and people.

Among the seven personality traits, associative orientation (#1) and flexibility (#5) are the factors that to the greatest extent lead to creative thinking. “Associative orientation is linked to ingenuity. Flexibility is linked to insight,” according to the professor. The other five characteristics describe emotional inclinations and motivational factors that influence creativity or spark an interest in creativity. “The seven personality traits influence creative performance through inter-action,” Martinsen points out.

Less Sociable

The study shows that the artists who participated scored much higher on associative orientation than the other participants. They have a substantial need for originality and are not particularly stable emotionally. The personality profile of the marketing students was quite similar to the artist profile and also differs from the other participants in the study. The artists in the study also scored lower values for ambition than the others and are not particularly sociable.


“An employer would be wise to conduct a position analysis to weigh the requirements for the ability to cooperate against the need for creativity,” Martinsen believes. He also emphasizes that creative people may need help to complete their projects. “Creative people are not always equally practical and performance-oriented, which is the reverse side of the “creativity medal.”

Since a good eight years have passed from when this study was done, it would be interesting to learn what differences, if any, a newer study would reveal toward creativity aspects in individuals. Given that the creative landscape itself has changed, it shouldn’t be too surprising to find that the new study results would reflect that.

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BI Norwegian Business School. “The hunt for the creative individual.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 April 2013. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130402091133.htm.

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for personal insights on life and its detours.