Can tests identify creative people?

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Abstract

It is always a popular pursuit by academic administrators to assess the creativity or innovative qualities of scientists in order to evaluate their research capabilities. Of course, traditionally such evaluations have been fraught with subjectivity (i.e., innovative scientists are commonly thought to be weird, under 40 years old, independent, risk-taking, etc.), and thus such evaluations have not been highly valued. In recent years, through testing, the American Chemical Society (ACS) has attempted to give respectability to the art of predicting the creativity of a scientist. ACS, which draws its members from both industrial and academic laboratories, held a symposium on the subject of evaluating the creativity of scientists. The proceedings were published by ACS as ‘Innovation and U.S. Research: Problems and Recommendations’ (W. N. Smith and C.F. Larson, eds., 1980). In the proceedings, as reported in the July 1982 Chemtec (all quotes here are from the Chemtec article), A. Nisson was able to identify only the following two-part characteristic of an innovative person: (1) a low threshold to ‘a state of discomfort with some aspect of the order of things, the status quo,’ and (2) ‘an extraordinarily high level of mental stamina enabling him or her to persist until the state of discomfort is removed.’

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