Climbing the Creative Ladder

Everyone is creative. The problem is that most people don’t give their creative spirit the credit it deserves. This could be because people equate creativity at the level of creative geniuses. However, according to James Kaufman, a psychology professor at the University of Connecticut, creativity is a development process that runs up and down a spectrum of four levels of creativity.

The Four-C Model of Creativity

The Four-C model of creativity has two interesting components. The first is that everyone is bound to find themselves at some point of the creative spectrum, proving that they are creative.

The model divides creative people into four categories:

  • Big Cs;
  • Pro Cs;
  • Little Cs; and
  • Mini Cs.

Most conceptions of creativity tend to take one of two approaches: Big-C and little-c. Big-C is creative genius. When you think of a classical composer, you probably think of Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, or someone similar. They are all at the Big-C level. Little-c is everyday creativity. It is the creativity inherent in everyday life. It might be someone who writes music for fun. What Ron and I argue is that this basic distinction omits two key levels: mini-c is the creativity that happens in the learning process. It could be a child learning to write a song. Pro-c is expert-level creativity. It might be someone who’s composed music that is currently popular.

— What is Creativity? | James C. Kaufman, Ph.D

The second interesting point is the development process component. You can start at the level of a “Mini C” and eventually become a “Big C.”

The life of a creative writer, for example, might progress through these stages as follows: At a young age, Sally learns about writing poetry and tries many different forms. She writes a sonnet, a Haiku, and free verse. These poems may not be particularly good, but they are meaningful to her. This is mini c. As she advances, she gets better. Maybe she reads some poetry at a coffee house and gets some poems published in her college literary magazine. Other people see some value in her poetry. This is little-c (we sometimes call this “county fair creativity”). Sally keeps improving. She gets an MFA and teaches poetry at a liberal arts college. She regularly publishes her work in respected journals. This is Pro-c. If she is very talented and very lucky, Sally may eventually be considered a truly great poet. Even after she has died, her writing may be studied and enjoyed by generations to come. This is Big-C.

— What is Creativity? | James C. Kaufman, Ph.D

Creativity in the Workplace

This model is not only useful in showing people that they are creative, it also shows that creativity can take place at work, no matter what job you have. There is always something new to be discovered. Start learning and achieve satisfaction through the learning because it is new and useful to you at a personal level.

I always says that good business analysts, or anyone who solves problems or makes decisions are flexing their creative muscles in doing so. Realizing that creativity at this level is valuable goes a long way in keeping you motivated and, in turn, increasing your job performance.

Your Creative Development

So go ahead. Admit that you are creative and then look for ways to be creative every day. It can be as simple as making it a point of discovering something new every day and experiencing the satisfaction derived from that.

If your goal is to become a Pro C or a Big C, then take it one step at a time. There’s value in each type and level of creativity.