The measure of innovation or creativity?

When I talk with people about innovation and creativity I always get asked "Can you measure innovation or creativity in a person?" While there are assessments to assess certain personality traits, I do not believe the word measure should be used.

When the word measure is introduced it brings with it some expectations: a base line measurement and then monitor measurements. This also introduces the notions of "improvement", "growth", "comparison".

Take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It's main purpose is to assist a person in identifying some significant personal preferences. It is a self help, self assessment, personal reflection kind of tool. However, I have seen organizations innocently use (at first) this tool on work teams to help them develop as individuals and members of the team. Unfortunately, what happens over time is the team members start to use other team members' Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as a label, to define interactions with people by their indicator. What this does is pigeon hole or box people in. The real effect is that a tool meant for personal reflection is used to create implied barriers in job functions. "You are an INTJ so you can't be suited to this sales position" are they types of misuse I want to avoid.

For background info, some other personal assessment tools include the Strong Interest Inventory and the California Psychological Inventory.

Interestingly, there is a "test" for creativity called the Remote Associates Test (RAT), a measure of convergent rather than divergent thinking. Interestingly, the original manuscript for this states "(it should) not be used for counseling or placement purposes at the present time."

The RAT hypothesis states "The creative thinking process is the forming of associative elements into new combinations which either meet specified requirements or are in some way useful. The more mutually remote the elements of the new combination, the more creative the process or solution."

What brought me to this entry is the Business Week (Oct 30th, 2006) brief blurb on "The Power Of Ambivalent Thinking". The articles states "ambivalent feelings -- the simultaneous anxiety and excitement of starting a new job, say -- may result in enhanced creativity." So there might be the Ambivalent Assessment Inventory (AAI) coming soon to your HR dept.


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