A Creativity Test?
It would be difficult to design an accurate way to test a
person's creativity, but some suggestions for doing that follow.
Such a creativity test could be scored according to these three
1. Quantity of ideas.
2. Originality of ideas.
3. Quality of ideas.
It is difficult to imagine that a test based on these criteria
could ever be very precise in distinguishing who is more or less
creative, but that doesn't mean it would tell us nothing. For
example, if people were asked to list in ten minutes as many
ways as they could to use a pen, those who found sixty ways might
reasonably be said to be more creative than those who found just
Why is the quantity of ideas important? Because experience
and history shows that having more ideas in general leads to
more good ideas. For example, it seems unlikely that Edison would
have been as successful with his light bulb if he had only thought
of only five things to try as a filament instead of the hundreds
he tried. Great photographers will tell you that one secret to
taking good photos is to take many and pick out the good ones.
This seems to hold true with ideas as well.
Originality is important because new ideas are most likely
to add value to what exists. After all, ideas which have been
around are more likely to have been used already. Of course,
since we're measuring originality of the individual, the important
question is not whether the idea has been thought of before,
but whether is it new to the person whose creativity is being
Quality is a tough thing to measure. With new products this
is done to a large extent by success in the marketplace. For
our purposes though, we can simply ask of each idea; "Does
it seem likely that it could be used and be of some value?"
A Test of Creative Ability
If you want to measure how creative you are, then, I propose
the following simple creativity test. It isn't meant to be definitive,
and you may be able to design a better one yourself, but this
one will give you the basic idea. Start with a pen and a couple
pieces of lined paper, and in twenty minutes write down as many
ideas as you can for one of the following:
- Ways to cross a lake.
- Materials a house can be built with.
- Possible and actual uses for a pencil.
- Possible and actual uses for a bicycle.
- Ways to make money with a car.
You can do this test by yourself, and perhaps test yourself
again weeks later to see if you have made some progress. For
a more immediate measurement by comparison with others, make
this a game with friends. All of you should use the same item
from the list above.
Players get a point for each idea they write down. They get
another point for each of idea which they have not heard of or
read about before (you'll have t trust players to be honest for
this). Finally, to measure the quality of the ideas, ask, "Does
this idea have any likely value in actual application?"
Score two points for each "yes." Players can all vote
on this last measure, if necessary.
The idea here is to use this as a relative measure of your
creative ability, as a point of comparison. This is why I have
no scores listed - no "x and above = very creative."
But after working with some of the techniques for increasing
creative output, you can take the test again, with another item
from the list (or make up your own), to see how you score.
Of course, the quantity of ideas will be different with different
subjects (how many uses are there for a chair versus a window?),
making the scores questionable. To make this more accurate then,
take the test several times before and after your "creativity
lessons," with different challenges each time. Compute an
average score for each series of tests you take, so you can more
reasonably compare the "before and after."
Note: Part two: How
to Be More Creative, covers a few more components of creative
ability which can be measured, as well as how to improve the
skills of creative thinking.