Creative, or a Behavior Problem?
Positive and Negative Creative Attitudes
The three required steps for innovation – creative CATs (Climates, Attitudes, and Thinking skills) – include: first, cultivate creative Climates; second, nurture creative Attitudes; and third, apply creative Thinking skills (Kim 2016).
Creative attitudes are necessary for individuals’ creativity to grow strong and flourish, which include soil, sun, storm, and space (4S) attitudes. The five soil attitudes help them become resourceful cross-pollinators; the six sun attitudes help them become curious optimists; the eight storm attitudes help them become resilient hard workers; and the eight space attitudes help them become defiant dreamers who apply creative-thinking skills for innovation. By combining their sun and space attitudes (for uniqueness) with their soil and storm attitudes (for usefulness), they make their creation both unique and useful, which is the essence of innovation (Kim 2016). Each attitude can be learned and further developed through practice. Not every creative individual possesses all of the 27 attitudes, but the most creative individuals do. These attitudes predict innovation in all fields by enabling individuals’ creative thinking skills and desire to use them.
However, each of the attitudes has a dual nature that can be marshalled for either constructive or destructive purposes, and thus can take on negative qualities without appropriate support and structure. The attitudes can be considered negative especially in anti-creative climates, and some of them might seem inherently negative to authority figures or conventional thinkers. A cactus exemplifies a creative individual’s attitude and how she or he seems to others. People often admire both the cactus’s ability to thrive in a desert and its flowers’ vibrant colors. But they often do not want to be near the cactus because its thorns are painful to touch although they are necessary for its survival. Similarly, most people admire a creative individual’s achievement, but they often do not love her or him because her or his attitude seems negative in uncreative or anti-creative climates. However, “troublemakers” or individuals with “negative” attitudes can become innovators through focusing on and magnifying the positive aspects of the attitudes (Kim 2016).
The Soil Attitudes
The open-minded attitude involves considering others’ views that are different from one’s own, which is developed by early diverse experiences including exposure to other cultures.
Having the bicultural attitude means embracing new cultures while maintaining one’s own cultural identity, which is developed by learning from other cultures. It matures by seeking diverse mentors.
The mentored attitude comes from being mutually interested in and taught by experts and their constructive criticism, which is developed by trusting others and being teachable. Mentorship and bicultural experiences help mentees understand complex views.
The complexity-seeking attitude is characterized by embracing equivocal and conflicting views. It is refined by dealing with or solving increasingly complex situations/problems and helps find and analyze unique opportunities.
Having the resourceful attitude means finding and using all kinds of resources/opportunities efficiently and effectively to accomplish goals. It is developed by one’s learning to prepare for or overcome financial, physical, or cultural challenges.
Each of the soil attitudes, however, can seem negative to others: open-minded individuals might seem “distracted”; bicultural individuals might seem “rootless”; mentored individuals might seem “channeled”; complexity-seeking individuals might seem “overcomplicated”; and resourceful individuals might seem “opportunistic.” Individuals must see the long-term positive aspects of these attitudes to magnify the underlying positive soil attitudes (Kim 2016).
Individuals must structure activities that expose themselves to diverse resources and ideas. They can benefit from: attending unfamiliar events that show different ways that families and friends interact, such as different ceremonies or religious practices, or foreign movies; identifying free events such as music concerts, lectures, classes, extracurricular activities, and after-school/work clubs; learning to do something that they do not know about such as taking a class, eating a new food, or reading a book they aren’t initially interested in; learning activities that push the limits of their comfort zone such as walking backward through their whole house or trying a back flip or hand stand; and learning to be open-minded/unfocused or focused depending on the specific stage of the creative process. For example, generating ideas requires a more open-minded/unfocused mind while evaluating the ideas requires a more focused mind. Once they have begun to identify new curiosity or interest, they must further pursue experiences for the curiosity or interest and friendships with people who share that curiosity or interest (Kim 2016).
The Sun Attitudes
Having the optimistic attitude means seeing positive outcomes regardless of existing circumstances. It starts with positive attachment to others, which helps individuals confidently expand their world.
The big-picture-thinking attitude comes from being inspired by others’ words, deeds, or values and seeing the big picture beyond constraints. It draws individuals out of limited situations to pursue unlimited possibilities. Their optimistic and big-picture-thinking attitudes direct curiosity out toward the big world.
Having the curious attitude means thinking in a childlike manner and insatiably seeking new information. It leads individuals to unexpected opportunities and instills a desire to pursue them.
Having the spontaneous attitude means being flexible and immediately acting on new ideas and opportunities. It starts with open-mindedness and curiosity and leads to playful approaches to experiences.
Having a playful attitude means approaching situations in exploratory ways and seeing the lighter side of challenges. This helps sustain individuals’ energy over time.
An energetic attitude comes from being motivated from within, regardless of external circumstances (by intense curiosity, self-inspiration, or other reasons). It starts with optimistic curiosity and sustains individuals’ enthusiasm over time.
Each of the sun attitudes, however, can seem negative to others: optimistic individuals might seem “unrealistic”; big-picture-thinking individuals might seem “dreamy”; curious individuals might seem “annoying”; spontaneous individuals might seem “impulsive”; playful individuals might seem “mischievous”; and energetic individuals might seem “hyper.” Individuals must see the long-term positive aspects of these attitudes to magnify the underlying positive sun attitudes (Kim 2016).
Spontaneity and novelty-seeking (a drive to experience exciting, unfamiliar stimuli and experiences and a compulsion to seize opportunities) benefit creative expression but can make an individual vulnerable to temperamental, impulsive, and compulsive behaviors (Carson 2011; Donfrancesco et al. 2015). With support and structure, however, impulsive individuals can maximize the positive aspects of their compulsion while restraining its negative influences. They can benefit from learning to live in the here-and-now while learning to organize and plan; and practicing how to think through their actions while identifying and respecting the boundaries and the rights of others. When they have a desire to do something spontaneous or impulsive, they should plan it out beforehand and execute it in a way that facilitates learning. For example, they could plan out a way to re-sculpt shrubs along the family home in a creative design and then journal about the experience; also, they could learn to play a musical instrument while agreeing to practice for a set amount of time; furthermore, they could make a list of their daily routines and explore variations on those themes in a safe and structured manner. By planning out and committing to these activities, impulsive individuals can explore their spontaneous nature in a way that simultaneously encourages discipline. Lastly, it is crucial to eat at least one meal a day as a family, and spend time cooking, playing, talking, walking, singing, dancing, or doing art together (Kim 2016).
The Storm Attitudes
Having the independent attitude means thinking and acting freely from others’ influence, support, and control. It starts with thinking and doing things alone and helps individuals control their own behaviors.
The self-disciplined attitude comes from individuals’ motivating and controlling themselves to accomplish goals. It starts by adapting to existing expectations/limitations and develops by structuring their own situations while avoiding distractions and addictions.
Having the diligent attitude means exerting meticulous, steady attention to build skills to accomplish clear goals. It starts with self-discipline and results in skills necessary to pursue the goals.
The self-efficacious attitude comes from being confident to perform well on a specific task based on previous successful experiences. Self-efficacy (true confidence) across multiple areas builds individuals’ resilience.
The resilient attitude comes from recovering and thriving after challenges or failures. It starts with self-efficacy and dedication to clear goals and helps develop skills that minimize the impact of setbacks or risks.
Having the risk-taking attitude means leaving secure situations in pursuit of uncertain rewards. It starts with optimistic self-efficacy and develops as individuals plan for various outcomes, which helps them keep trying.
Having the persistent attitude means continuously striving for goals with commitment regardless of immediate rewards. It starts with individuals’ self-efficacy and resilience and strengthens as they make progress toward their goals.
Having the uncertainty-accepting attitude means acting without complete information regardless of potential challenges or outcomes, which helps one dare to attempt the impossible.
Each of the storm attitudes, however, can seem negative to others: independent individuals might seem “aloof”; self-disciplined individuals might seem “compulsive”; diligent individuals might seem like “workaholics”; self-efficacious individuals might seem “arrogant”; resilient individuals might seem “combative”; risk-taking individuals might seem “reckless”; persistent individuals might seem “obsessive”; and uncertainty-accepting individuals might seem “fearless.” Individuals must see the long-term positive aspects of these attitudes to magnify the underlying positive storm attitudes (Kim 2016).
The focus and determination that are necessary to overcome challenges and setbacks can also produce arrogant, brash individuals who alienate and frustrate collaborators. They must learn to give time and consideration for other important matters; learn social skills to prevent misunderstandings and hostility; learn how to recognize the needs, feelings, and thoughts of others; and be vigilant about their confidence before it snowballs into a more arrogant form. They must have a balanced level of structure and discipline. Too much structure stunts the growth of creative attitudes and thinking skills, leaving them like bonsai plants that will be unable to reach their full potential. Too little structure and discipline, however, allows for them to become like weeds that are undisciplined and incapable. They must learn rules and structure while simultaneously having choices and options, and be allowed to question and discuss the validity of the rules. They must escape rigid or controlling environments and opportunities to take intellectual risks – with consequences – to find better or new ways of doing things. They must learn how to make calculated risks, and learn that excellence is a healthy goal but perfection is not. They must learn boundaries through punishment and criticism, with understanding how these efforts will serve to keep them safe. When they fail to meet expectations, they must learn the clear reasons and justifications for these expectations with their will for improvement. Aggressive behavior must be immediately and consistently stopped in order to extinguish it while paying attention to the one that was under assault, only giving attention to the aggressor’s appropriate behaviors (Kim 2016).
The Space Attitudes
Having the emotional attitude means recognizing, understanding, and expressing individuals’ own feelings. It helps them communicate their own state of mind and develops empathy for others.
Having the compassionate attitude means internally empathizing with others and externalizing it by helping them in meaningful ways. It starts with understanding others and their situations and seeing the big picture. It helps individuals self-reflect about others’ experiences and the big world.
Having the self-reflective attitude means enjoying solitude to understand the essence of individuals’ own and others’ experiences and views. It starts with enjoying time alone to work on goals and is facilitated by connecting with nature. It helps them be objective about their feelings and make their own choices autonomously.
Having the autonomous attitude means being independently and intrinsically motivated to pursue goals. It starts when individuals set their own goals and matures as they enjoy achieving them.
Having the daydreaming attitude means sustaining unrealistic but goal-oriented thoughts while awake. It helps individuals disregard existing norms in their extemporaneous thoughts but capture useable aspects of the thoughts.
Having the nonconforming attitude means choosing to differ from mainstream patterns of thought and behavior. It develops by feeling comfortable being an outsider and helps individuals reach their uniqueness beyond existing norms.
Having the defiant attitude means courageously rejecting or changing existing norms, values, traditions, hierarchies, or authorities in order to pursue individuals’ goals. Their defiance breaks the existing constraints, which enables them to see/do what others cannot.
Having the gender-bias-free attitude means rejecting stereotypes based on gender. It develops by using views and strengths from different genders, which opens the door to intellectual defiance across physical, financial, professional, and ethnic biases.
Each of the Space attitudes, however, can seem negative to others: emotional individuals might seem “unstable”; compassionate individuals might seem “overreaching”; self-reflective individuals might seem “withdrawn”; autonomous individuals might seem “uncontrolled”; daydreaming individuals might seem “delusional”; nonconforming individuals might seem “wild”; gender-bias-free individuals might seem “gender-free”; and defiant individuals might seem “rebellious.” Creativity is a gift, but it can be a curse in anti-creative climates especially for those who display the space attitudes. They are scolded or punished for their space attitudes, which many people see as negative. For example, even for some of those who believe they value creativity, in fact their actions are found to devalue it because they see a conforming attitude as indicative of creativity, and the nonconforming attitude or the defiant attitude as negative. Individuals must see the long-term positive aspects of these attitudes to magnify the underlying positive space attitudes (Kim 2016).
Nonconformity and defiance are crucial to creative expression. In their efforts to assert themselves in pursuit of matters of truth, individuals must question authority, assert themselves freely, show disobedience and resistance, and refuse to conform to moral compromises that they feel are harmful or damaging. They should not accept the efforts of others to make them feel “deviant” or “wrong.” However, they must also learn to operate within the parameters of the law; understand that their actions have consequences; consider the basic principles that underlie the foundations of conventional knowledge; understand and respect the boundaries of others; and learn how to disagree with and challenge others without being disrespectful or hostile (Kim 2016).
Nonconforming or defiant individuals are often under-stimulated and unchallenged in school or at work, which can lead them to drop out or quit prematurely and limit their options later in life. They must be stimulated and challenged by being allowed to work both in groups and individually; by engaging in independent study or work and self-reflection time; by having plans and assignments tailored to their interests, by learning communication and social skills to avoid misunderstandings from others, and learning self-management and emotional regulation skills (Kim 2016).
Conclusions and Future Directions
All individuals are born with creative potential. Successful creativity depends not on the amount of creative potential certain individuals are born with but on how much of their creativity the world they grow up in allows them to keep and what is left over after their creative attitudes and thinking skills are stifled or bonsaied by their climates. Their creativity is bonsaied by home climates first, by school climates next, by work climates next, and the like, which are the most critical climates for individuals’ creativity development. While others were staring only at a cactus’ thorns, parents, teachers, and mentors of innovators saw the cactus for its strength, uniqueness, and buds for potentially colorful blossom. They cultivated creative climates and saw the positive aspects of the young innovators 4S attitudes. They encouraged them to use these attitudes for applying creative-thinking skills for innovation, which eventually changed history (Kim 2016).
Creativity has the power to transform the good to the best. History has shown that it only takes a few individuals to make striking advances for humankind. The three practical steps of cultivating creative climates, nurturing creative attitudes, and applying creative-thinking skills – rather than fostering anti-creative climates and attitudes that bonsai individuals’ creative potential – will help individuals increase future innovation (Kim 2016).
- Donfrancesco R, Di Trani M, Porfirio MC, Giana G, Miano S, Andriola E. Might the temperament be a bias in clinical study on attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?: novelty seeking dimension as a core feature of ADHD. Psychiat Res [Internet]. 2015;227(2–3):333–8. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2015.02.014 [cited 2016 May 13]CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Kim K-H. The creativity challenge: how we can recapture American innovation. Amherst/New York: Prometheus Books; 2016.Google Scholar