Characteristics of Creative People

Characteristics of Creative People

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his landmark study, Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, identified several prominent characteristics of creative people  He defines creativity as “any act, idea or product that changes an existing domain (e.g., science, art, music), or that transforms an existing domain into a new one.”

Some characteristics of creative people include:

* Lots of energy, but also often quiet and at rest.

Tendency to be smart, but also naive.

* Combinations of extremes, such as playfulness and discipline or responsibility and irresponsibility.

* Alternate swings between imagination & fantasy and practicality & reality.

* Opposite tendencies on a continuum of introversion and extroversion.

* Humility and pride at the same time.

* Rejection of rigid gender role stereotypes with a tendency toward androgyny.

* Labeled as rebellious or independent.

* Passionate about their work while maintaining objectivity.

* Open and very sensitive, often exposing themselves to extremes in suffering and enjoyment.

Csikszentmihalyi distinguishes between big-C and little-c creativity.  Big-C creativity denotes a person who has achieved eminence in a particular domain through a novel idea or invention (think Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity).  Little-c creativity can be characterized as creativity practiced everyday in problem solving and critical thinking.

Characteristics of creative people in Csikszentmihalyi’s research refer primarily to big-C creativity.  But these characteristics can also be useful to educators as they consider little-c creativity in teaching and learning in schools.  Does our educational system allow students with these characteristics to thrive?  Or do such students often annoy teachers or suffer the disdain of their classmates?

When considering the crucial importance to creativity in 21st education life, society and economy, we need to create space for creativity in the often rigid standards-based environment of our schools.  Common Core and Next Generation Science standards contain plenty of references to creativity.  There is a strong correlation between the characteristics of creative people presented by Csikszentmihalyi and domain mastery and the outcomes of the new standards.  The realities of current practice, however, continue to place more value on standardization than creativity.





Karen Collias

My name is Karen Collias and I founded Knowledge Without Borders™ to infuse creativity and innovation into the most salient educational issues affecting global contemporary society. I attribute my enthusiasm to cross the borders of traditional knowledge domains to the multi-disciplinary nature of my education and professional experience. The first in my family to go to college, I have a Ph.D. from Columbia University. My professional experience focuses on interdisciplinary research, teaching, and strategic thinking at a variety of institutions, including Princeton University, the Smithsonian Institution, and the U.S. Department of State. I currently am crossing borders to write about creativity and innovation in education and philanthropy.



  • Karen Collias June 14, at 23:57

    Thank you.. I am working on a design thinking blog that includes a group focusing on "Afro-futurism," using science fiction to reimagine new futures for urban youth.

  • Karen Collias July 22, at 01:06

    Thank you...

  • Vilma December 22, at 02:32

    When we go on to a tour in another crnotuy, another culture setting, we tend to stand with our own value and culture system, and to process and make comparison to those of the local subject with our own. It is only different, when you are soaked' in the foreign, alien environment, that you feel like an outsider, an minority, one that needs adjustment to blend in' to the local surroundings, that we can understand and also experience how living abroad can change us internally.We as socialized animals, still kept many of our animalistic habits and way of thinking, it not only reflect on our own action, but also in greater scale, the whole community and society can be acting and in reflection to our instinctive characteristics.Firstly, we are born feeling insecure, and that's why the very first thing we do in our life is to cry, so that we can draw attention of our mothers in order to secure the very basic of our safety. In my opinion, that very instinctive personality, is directly responsible for so many of our actions as groups or communities. From our animalistic period, we learned that close community is crucial, direct bloodline is crucial, for the safety of the tribe or the clan; From that, we realized at least unconsciously, that whoever(whatever) that doesn't look or act similar to ourselves, should be considered potentially hostile and might needs to be eliminated in order to secure our own safety. And that is the very origin of Racism.With that in mind, of course when we enter an alien culture setting, without majority of the people around us acting and thinking (or even looking) differently from ourselves, the very urgent thing to do (according to our inner instinctive voice) is to get the hell out! . And that is one of the realizations I made myself, when I realized that every time I am going on to an international trip, very oftenly one day prior to the trip, I might have a running stomach (my body trying to get me to quit the trip). Then after realizing that leaving is no longer an option(to me, this is also one of the reasons why we will have the nostalgic' feelings), the second instinctive thing we do, is to act like the locals, in case retaliation or hostile actions are taken against us; That is why we learn to speak the language, trying to blend in by adapting the local customs from table manner, to clothing, and even to, having a local mate.These instinctive actions, inevitably turn us into adaptive politicians(or diplomats to be more accurate); And as we all know, those people who has more Social Capitals, tend to succeed in society. We became, in a way, actors.But of course while sounding really prudish, it does make significant modification unconsciously to our minds, and these modifications might not be such evil and against-morality-fakeness, but those necessary characteristics needed in order for someone to achieve positive outcomes in society in general.Those who's been embedded in a foreign culture, tends to be more tolerant towards different ideas and beliefs; They are relatively more adaptive towards different environments and settings; They are familiar the good and bad of not one, but more than one culture, and as we know it(again), good characteristics tend to defy and canceling the bad ones. As an result of the explained and unexplained reasons, those who has spend longer period of time in a foreign cultural setting, tend to do better with their creative or cognitive capacity.Personally I have spent two years in England, and now more than one year in America, and both places and cultures had definitely changed me, a lot; So much that I've started to experience reversed culture shocks.Basically, the above paragraphs are solidified partially by my very own experiences with spending time in different cultures. And I'll have to say that, it does change people, well sometimes in a bad way if they are unable to be adjusting to the environment and thus unfit in that particular surrounding; But generally I do believe that life abroad definitely has a positive correlation to one's cognitive capacity.


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