Is it possible to be creative, even if you are not a genius changing the world?
Yes, of course.
But how do you compare the creativity of a child, to someone who is a professional?
This is where the 4C model of creativity comes in.
The 4C model of Creativity
Up until recently, there was a view that there were only two general levels of creativity which people could achieve:
- Everyday Creativity (little-c): small creative acts which bring value to you and those in close proximity, do not impact the world at large, but is found in nearly all people.
- Eminent Creativity (Big-C): People whose new ideas impact the world and who are seen as figureheads of creativity who changed their domain. These are often the people remembered in history books.
The issue with this little-c, Big-C model is that there are many situations where people may be highly creative, even at a professional level, but do not make the impact of a genius.
Similarly, how do you assess the creativity of a child just learning about the world for the first time, to whom all ideas are new and creative? Or someone just learning something new in a field?
In 2009, Professors James Kaufman and Ronald Beghetto published their breakthrough paper on Beyond Big and Little: The Four C Model of Creativity.
They argued that in addition to little-c and Big-C, there should be two additional levels:
- Transformative Learning (mini-c): novel and personally meaningful interpretation of experiences, actions, and events. This level is very personal to the individual. This is how even young children can be creative.
- Professional Expertise (Pro-c): here, someone is able to be creative at a level respected by the domain, and will be recognised as creative by their peers. They may even require creativity as part of their profession.
So now we have four levels of creativity, based not only on the impact which an individual makes, but also on their own journey.
A child is likely to start out as mini-c when learning a new field, move into little-c when beginning to exhibit new ideas and trying new things, specialising into the field through deliberate practice and gaining experience and making an impact as a Pro-c, and perhaps even changing the field and being remembered in history as a Big-C.
Many Big-C creative geniuses may be seen as only Pro-c during their much of their lifetime until they reach a breakthrough.
Other Pro-c creatives will remain at that level and will never be remembered as Big-C geniuses.
And in some cases, individuals who at one point in history, perhaps even in their own lifetime, were seen as Big-C geniuses are later on regarded as less creative when compared to the wider history of the field as time goes by, and their status can later be downgraded to being Pro-C again.
As an example, think of your own lifetime and how certain musicians, artists, actors or businessmen seem to be announced and celebrated as geniuses for a few weeks, months or years, but then just as quickly fade into obscurity.
I can think of many one-hit-wonder musicians who fit this description.
So even if you are not currently the next Beethoven or Elon Musk, you are still creative.
So are your children.
And who knows what you all may accomplish if you keep developing your creativity.
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