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The Value of Creativity in Research

While most people associate creativity with the arts and sciences, creative approaches can lead to novel ways of advancing research. Learn about the importance of creativity in science and how you can be more creative in your research here.

Creativity has important value in both the arts and sciences. Creative approaches can lead to novel ways of thinking about problems and even advancements in research. Read on to learn more about the importance of creativity in science and how you can be more creative in your research.

What does it mean to be “creative”?

Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives or possibilities to solve problems, communicate, or entertain (4). Creativity is linked to fundamental thinking qualities, such as flexibility, tolerance of unpredictability, and enjoyment of new experiences (4). A creative person sees things in a novel way.

Creativity: art versus science

Creativity has always been considered important in the arts (2), but it is not a concept that immediately comes to mind when thinking about scientific research. In fact, many people don’t think of science as a creative endeavor at all!

Science is typically thought of as an outcome-driven area, with the correct answer to a problem being the ultimate goal. Creativity is something reserved for the realm of art, right?

Actually, research involves discovering new things and attempting to solve problems that don’t have solutions (1). The ability to solve problems in a novel way is inherent to research. So as you can see, creativity is an essential part of being a researcher!

How to be a more creative researcher

Don’t let preconceived notions about the scientific process keep you from approaching your research from a creative perspective. A little creative thinking or trying a novel approach might ## be just what is needed to make a major advancement or to better enjoy your work as a researcher. Here are a few pointers if you want to be more creative in your research:

  • Be open to new things: Creativity often develops from new knowledge and experiences.
  • Take a break from the problem: Let your mind wander and relax to reset your perspective.
  • Open your mind: Perceptions and presuppositions can limit the information you take in, so creativity thrives in an open mind.
  • Rewrite the problem: Look at things from a different angle to spark creativity.
  • Try something new: Try what others are not trying and look where others are not looking.
  • Don’t be afraid of getting it wrong: It’s okay to get the answer wrong; remember that Edison made several thousand attempts before reaching success.

Fear of the creative approach

It is not uncommon for researchers in scientific fields to fear or even balk at the idea of “taking a creative approach.” Researchers use higher-order types of thinking, including analysis, synthesis, and abstraction (3).

While these important cognitive skills are key to approaching research problems, creative thinking can enable researchers to restructure and solve problems through insights, often from unexpected places (3).

In fact, creativity often shows up as an “aha” moment or after talking with knowledgeable people (3). Creativity can be informative of scientific progress and even a defining feature of scientific advancement (2).

But what if I get the wrong answer?

One factor that limits creativity is the fear of getting the wrong answer (1). Scientists often solve problems with a single focus. Thus, trying something new or being creative in some way may seem difficult (1).

In reality, getting things wrong is just as important as getting things right in science. According to a biography of Thomas Edison, who is considered to be one of the greatest inventors of all time, Edison attempted over 9,000 experiments when trying to devise a new type of storage battery before finding success (5).

After his associate, Walter S. Mallory, commented that it was a shame he’d worked so hard for no results, Edison reportedly replied, “Results? Why, man, I have gotten many results! I know several thousand things that will not work!” (5).

Finally, let our experts at AJE handle your editing, translation, formatting and other prepublishing needs so that you have more time to get those creative juices flowing in your research!

References

  • (1) Van Aken, K. The critical role of creativity in research. MRS Bulletin 41:12, pp. 934-938. 2016. https://doi.org/10.1557/mrs.2016.280
  • (2) Lehmann, J. and Gaskins, B. Learning scientific creativity from the arts. Palgrave Commun 5:96. 2019. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-019-0308-8
  • (3) DeHaan, R. L. Teaching creative science thinking. Science 334:6062, pp. 1499-1500. 2011. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1207918
  • (4) Franken, R. E. Human Motivation, 3rd ed. Brooks/Cole Pub. Co. Pacific Grove, CA. 1994.
  • (5) Dyer, F. and Martin, T.C. Edison: His Life and Inventions. Harper and Brothers, NY. 1910.

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