Wednesday, March 30

Individual Creativity Equation

Ooops.   There's something fundamental I should have shared in a much earlier post. It's a terribly basic pseudo-scientific equation for individual creativity, as follows:

C = VIMTO     or     C = VIMT(B/D)

   C is creative product
   V is the variety of stimulus
   I is the native propensity for ideation
   M is the motivating influence from the surrounding culture
   T is the gestation time
   O is the "oblong factor" (B/D), with
        B as the breadth of knowledge of the problem space, and
        D as the depth of knowledge of the problem space

If we overlook the pseudo-science then the assertion is simply that individual creative product is maximised when the following conditions apply.  And of course there's the more sinister contrapositive interpretation that it can easily come to nothing if any are missing ...

  • There are plenty of outside influences from a variety of sources
  • You're not entirely without imagination
  • Your organisation actively encourages new ideas, or can at least tolerate them
  • You have both free time and elapsed time to think
  • You have broad knowledge of a particular business problem or opportunity, but critically not too much depth of knowledge, which can be narrowing

It's a fun concept for an ex-mathematician like me, but not without merit.  I've experimented with these levers in the past, and am convinced they each have a part to play.   And I'm not the only one, in fact my biography page is full of VIMTO enthusiasts, whether they know it or not!  To name a few:  
- Webb Young and the Sticky Wisdom team have addressed the importance of V
- de Bono believes that M is a make-or-break factor
- MacKenzie writes eloquently about the value of T
- Patterson identifies T and M as being important factors 

I make no attempt to address the more sophisticated equation that would be needed to model "organisational creativity" with the inevitable interference from social dynamics.  Nor will I consider a broader "innovation equation", which others have surely addressed, and which would demand consideration of a wider set of variables en route to the implementation of a successful idea.

In the interests of fairness I should point-out that others have attempted to model this kind of thing, notably Ruth Noller (see

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject or any other, and will be happy to refine the equation if I've missed anything obvious.  Thanks in advance to the constructive critics.

No comments:

Post a Comment