A product’s creativity- an artwork, a discovery, an invention, a paradigm change, and so on- is a good way of operationalizing the creativity study. In fact, some authors argue that it is impossible to assess people’s creativity without measuring the creativity of their products (Briskman, 1980).
However, despite the product’s importance, establishing the product’s creativity assessment criteria has been scarce. Almost all proposals to measure it have been oriented to specific domains (Besemer y O’Quin, 1999).
In this post, I mention some of the characteristics and measuring criteria that are remarkable in the literature on this topic, including the recent proposal by Cropley (2019) to evaluate the creativity of some great innovations in human history.
What do we understand by creative product?
Popularly, it is understood that something is creative if it fulfills two characteristics:
- novelty/originality determined by comparison with other products of the same class,
- value/utility, appropriate or capable of solving a problem.
To these two dimensions, a third could be added, which would be the ability of the product to emotion, an aspect that many studies on creativity have ignored and possibly constitutes a bias in their results (Runco, 1996).
Some proposals to measure the creativity of a product
In general, many studies on creative product measurement are based on the criteria established by Besemer and Treffinger (1981), which mention three broad categories: novelty, resolution, and elaboration-synthesis, although there are some previous proposals, as we will see below.
Creative Product Inventory – CPI (Taylor, 1975)
It is one of the first attempts to establish general measurement criteria for a product. It is a Likert scale with seven dimensions that judges or experts use in their assessments. These criteria are:
- Generation: the ability of a product to stimulate the new ideas generation
- Reformulation: extent and form in which the change occurs with the proposed product.
- Originality: rarity and infrequency of the product.
- Relevance: way to solve a problem or satisfy a need.
- Hedonism: product popularity and impact.
- Complexity: how it is used to present or handle information.
- Condensation: how ideas are integrated and simplified into the product.
The five characteristics of creative products of Mackinnon (1978)
Mackinnon propose the following five qualities to define a creative product:
- originality, previously non-existent proposal,
- adaptability or ability to solve problems,
- aesthetic qualities such as elegance,
- trascendence or ability to transform o habilidad para transformar o trascend reality,
- realization or product development and elaboration, its assessment and presentation.
Creative Product Analysis Matrix – CPAM (Besemer y Treffinger, 1981)
This matrix assesses product creativity through three dimensions: novelty, resolution, and style. It is used as previous criteria of product elaboration (conceptualization and design phase) and for the posterior assessment by judges.
Novelty: it is composed of originality and surprise dimensions. It refers to the number and scope of new processes, new techniques, or new concepts, and also to novelty inside and outside the field.
Resolution: it is composed of logic, utility, value, and understanding. It is the manner of solving a problem or satisfying a need.
Estilo: Formed by the dimensions; organic qualities, elaboration, and elegance, it refers to the aesthetic attributes of the product that make it attractive to the public and cause an emotional reaction.
Creative product semantic scale – CPSS (Besemer y O’Quinn, 1987)
It is a scale to measure product creativity, formed by 55 items organized in sub-scales that point to three main dimensions: novelty, resolution, and style. This scale has been used to measure the creativity of artistic and commercial products.
In judges’ assessment, generally, it is not considered only one creativity characteristic, but the evaluation contains various criteria that have been defined previously, or judges have the freedom to assess according to their criteria when they are experts in the product object of evaluation.
In both cases, after evaluation, a comparison inter-judges is done to estimate the reliability of measures, as well as, when criteria freedom is given and based on characteristics established by each judge, be able to create a new scale.
Criticism of evaluation by judges
Despite its apparent objectivity, assessments by judges have important criticism, mainly for these reasons;
- When a previously defined criterion for assessment is not used, aspects more related to intelligence or performance than creativity are usually assessed since separating these concepts in practice is difficult.
- There are aspects related to possible biases in the assessment, such as the origin of the judges or the status of the individual to be assessed, that can favor or harm the evaluative judgment.
Both reasons make it essential to calculate inter-judge confidence in these measurements.
It should be noted that what is exposed in both cases, with and without evaluative criteria, there seems to be greater confidence when the criteria to be evaluated have been defined, the judges have been advised on the evaluation procedure, and a pooling and prior discussion has been carried out among the judges on the aspects that are going to be evaluated.
Consensual Assessment Technique – CAT (1983;1996)
Authors such as Teresa Amabile operationalize creativity with a clear orientation towards the product and employ judges in their assessment. The Consensus Assessment Technique (CAT) is Amabile’s proposal (1983; 1996) to measure the creativity of products. This way of measuring creativity through judges has been used by various researchers in creativity studies, as well as in professional practice, for example, in the field of marketing.
CAT is based on the following premise “a product is creative to the extent that adequate observers agree that it is creative” (Hennessey and Amabile, 1999: 350), although it does not follow the precepts of any previous theory on creativity.
Creative Solution Diagnosis Scale-CSDS (2012)
Cropley sees creativity as linked to problem-solving due to his engineering approach to the matter. In his analysis of some of the innovations in the history of humankind, Cropley (2019) echoes several of the characteristics of creativity indicated by previous researchers and incorporates new ones into what will make up his criteria for evaluating the creativity of a product or innovation. Specifically, the evaluation criteria or dimensions that he develops from the scale CSDS (Cropley y Kaufman, 2012) are:
- Relevance and y effectiveness, answer questions such as does the product do or serve the function it should do in the best possible way?
- Novelty and originality, is the product new, original and amazing?
- Elegance is a product completed, entendido como un producto completo, fully resolved and understandable,
- Genesis is understood as the possibility of opening up to new perspectives or a paradigm shift.
In his 2019 work, Cropley assigns values between zero and four (0-4) to each of the dimensions of creativity for each innovation he submits for evaluation. Zero means total absence of the characteristic, and four means total compliance. The evaluation contextualizes the innovation in its time and what it meant at that time for humanity since creativity is a social construction. The maximum score that innovation can achieve in this scheme is 16 points. The interval (0-4) corresponds to low creativity, (5-8) medium, (9-12) high, and (13-16) very high.
It is striking how, after each evaluation carried out by Cropley (2019) of the innovations that he has selected for his book and, above all, after each argument of the reasons for that evaluation, the velocipede obtains the maximum score, compared to others, that he considers less creative, as the Industrial Revolution, writing, the smartphone, artificial skin or the Internet.
We can affirm that the creativity of a product is, therefore, a social phenomenon that is circumscribed to a specific time and culture, given that the environment grants creative value. Evaluation is inevitable and extends to products and ideas, which can be considered proto-products (Besemer and O’Quin, 1999).
Amabile, M. T. (1983). The social psychology of creativity. Journal Of Personality and Social Psychology, 45(2), 357–376.
Amabile, M. T. (1996). Creativity in context. Boulder, CO: : Westview.
Besemer, S. P., & O’Quin, K. (1987). Creative product analysis: Testing a model by developing a judging instrument. In S. G. Isaksen (Ed.), Frontiers of creativity research: Beyond the basics (pp. 367–389). Buffalo, NY: Brady
Besemer, S. P., & O’Quin, K. (1999). Confirming the three-factor creative product analysis matrix model in an American sample. Creativity Research Journal, 12(4), 287–296.
Besemer, S. P., & Treffinger, D. J. (1981). Analysis of Creative Products: Review and Synthesis, 15, 159–178.
Briskman, L. (1980). Creative product and creative process in science and art. Inquiry, 23(1), 83–106.
Cropley, D. (2019). Homo Problematis Solvendis. A History of Human Creativity. Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. DOI https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-3101-5
Cropley, D. H. & Kaufman, J. C. (2012). Measuring Functional Creativity: Non-Expert Raters and the Creative Solution Diagnosis Scale (CSDS), Journal of Creative Behavior. 46:2, pp. 119–137.
MacKinnon D.W., (1978), In search of human effectiveness: Identifying and developing creativity, Creative Education Foundation, New York.
Runco, M. A. (1996). Personal creativity: Definition and developmental issues. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, (72), 3–30.