The Relationship between Creativity and Interpersonal Problem-Solving Skills in Adults
Article first published online: 22 DEC 2011
1996 Creative Education Foundation
The Journal of Creative Behavior
Volume 30, Issue 3, pages 173–182, September 1996
How to Cite
BLISSETT, S. E. and MCGRATH, R. E. (1996), The Relationship between Creativity and Interpersonal Problem-Solving Skills in Adults. The Journal of Creative Behavior, 30: 173–182. doi: 10.1002/j.2162-6057.1996.tb00766.x
- Issue published online: 22 DEC 2011
- Article first published online: 22 DEC 2011
The present study evaluated whether creativity training and interpersonal problem-solving training reflect equivalent or complementary skills in adults. A sample of 74 undergraduates received interpersonal problem-solving training, creativity training, neither, or both. Dependent variables included measures of problem-solving and creative performance, and problem-solving and creative style. The results suggested that creativity and interpersonal problem-solving represent complementary skills, in that each training program specifically affected performance only on related measures of performance. A combination of programs affected both abilities.
Creativity training and interpersonal problem-solving training are popular psychoeducational interventions that developed in isolation from each other. Originally thought of as a mysterious process, the empirical analysis of the creative act can be traced to the work of Wallas (1926). Under the assumption that creativity is a desirable trait, a number of scales and training programs have been developed to measure and enhance creative skills. Creativity training has been used primarily in educational and industrial settings (e.g., Basadur, 1981).
The principles of interpersonal problem-solving training have emerged more recently, in the work of Spivack and Shure (1974; Spivack, Platt, & Shure, 1976) and D'Zurilla (D'Zurilla & Goldfried, 1971; D'Zurilla & Nezu, 1982). These authors conceptualized interpersonal problem-solving training in the context of behavior therapy, and for this reason the literature on interpersonal problem-solving is more closely associated with therapeutic settings.
Creativity and interpersonal problem-solving skills can be conceptually distinguished on the basis of their goals. Interpersonal problem-solving refers to one's skill in determining the means by which to achieve a specific end or overcome a specific problem. Creativity, on the other hand, need not be oriented towards achieving specific ends; it is associated with the capacity for thinking in new and different ways. Koestler (1964) has even argued that these two goals can be inimical, at least in adults, in that the ability to combine information in unique ways may be. hindered when the individual focuses his or her thinking on a specific problem.
At the same time, there are clear similarities between the two domains of skills. Guilford (1977) noted that “creative thinking produces novel outcomes, and problem-solving involves producing a new response to a new situation, which is a novel outcome” (p. 161). Edwards and Sproull (1984) saw creativity training as a method for improving the quality of solutions to problems and increasing personal effectiveness. They considered problem-solving synonymous with creativity, since both training programs offer a variety of techniques to help identify useful solutions to problems.
Similarly, Noller (1979) and others (e.g., Isaksen, Dorval, & Treffinger, 1994) have discussed the concept of creative problem solving, which attempts to integrate principles in the literature on creativity and on problem solving. Isaksen et al. conceptualized the process of creative problem solving as consisting of six steps which fall within three stages. The first stage involves understanding the problem, consisting of three steps: mess-finding, data-finding, and problem-finding. This is followed by the stage of generating ideas, involving the idea- finding step. Finally, there is planning for action, which involves solution-finding and acceptance-finding.
The most important difference between the various creativity training models and the interpersonal problem-solving model lies in their emphasis. Creativity training models focus primarily on enhancing skill at generating solutions. The interpersonal problem-solving model places equal emphasis on the implementation and evaluation of potential solutions.
Although many authors have suggested that participation in creativity training will have positive effects on social and interpersonal functioning (e.g., Parnes, 1987), only two studies have been conducted examining the relationship between the interpersonal problem-solving training model and creativity skills. Miller, Serafica, and Clark (1989) and Shondrick, Serafica, Clark, and Miller (1992) found that interpersonal problem-solving training for children also enhanced creativity skills, and that children's creative abilities appear to be predictive of their interpersonal problem-solving skills.
The question of whether creativity and interpersonal problem-solving are equivalent, complementary, or even inimical has not been adequately addressed in the existing literature. For one thing, there are no studies examining the relationship between the two constructs in adults. This is an important question, given Koestler's (1964) conclusion that they are potentially inconsistent among adults. Second, there are no studies at all regarding the impact of creativity training on problem-solving skills in adults. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate whether creativity and interpersonal problem-solving skills can be distinguished in an adult sample.