There is a debate in the creativity research community as to whether creative thinking or creative process skills are domain specific (that is, not transferable between domains), or domain general (that is, transferable from one domain to another). This is, as most debates, a “yes, and” situation. There are general creative thinking skills that can be used in multiple (and even disparate) domains, such as the ability to think divergently. And, there are creative skills specific to a domain (e.g., color sense in painting) that are likely not transferable (to, say, writing or inventing).
In the fascinating book Sparks of Genius (which I have just begun reading and which will get more play in this blog over the coming weeks), Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein take a firm stand on the debate:
Creative thinking in all fields occurs preverbally, before logic or linguistics comes into play, manifesting itself through emotions, intuitions, images, and bodily feelings. The resulting ideas can be translated into one or more formal systems of communication, such as words, equations, pictures, music, or dance only after they are sufficiently developed in their prelogical forms. Regardless of the infinitely diverse details of the products of this translation (paintings, poems, theories, formulas, and so on), the process by which it is achieved is universal. Learning to think creatively in one discipline therefore opens the door to understanding creative thinking in all disciplines. Educating this universal creative imagination is the key to producing lifelong learners capable of shaping the innovations of tomorrow. (p. vii)
What this opening paragraph argues – and which is expanded throughout the book – is that creative thinking skills are essential life skills, useful universally, and they they can and should be taught. In the first chapter, the Root-Bernsteins criticize educational systems that separate content areas, and fail to provide education in creative thinking, which is both essential and cross-disciplinary.
My professional focus is training adults, and I have begun positioning creativity (creative thinking, creative process) as a core competency for workplace performance. As the Root-Bernsteins are saying, there is no area untouched by creative thinking. I named the company OmniSkills because it was created to teach a wide array of skills. As the focus narrows, I’m redefining what the name means, too: I now see “OmniSkills” as the skills that form the foundation of workplace performance – competencies such as creativity, communication, and emotional intelligence. They are “omni” because they affect everything.
Root-Bernstein, R. & Root-Bernstein, M. (1999). Sparks of Genius. New York: Houghton Mifflin.