Many of us, when we hear the word “creativity,” think of musicians, writers, painters, or actors. But the arts don’t hold a monopoly on creativity. At its essence, creativity (as defined by Merriam-Webster) is “the ability to make new things or think of new ideas.” It would be difficult to come up with a broader definition for creativity – the very concept defies categorization and transcends boundaries.
When thinking of people in terms of personality type, we sometimes forget that an Introvert can enjoy a night on the town as easily as an Extravert can appreciate a night in with a good book. Similarly, we sometimes downplay or ignore the creativity exhibited by those who aren’t “creatives.” The mechanic who can get anything on wheels to run or the scientist who discovers a new treatment for a disease is exhibiting the same spirit of innovation that an actor uses to deliver a fresh, surprising performance of Shakespeare, or that a musician uses to compose an irresistible pop song.
Just as a brilliant mechanic might not make a great Hamlet, a talented actor might struggle to fix an oil leak. Different personality types have different strengths when it comes to the creative process. In this article, we consider the creative potential of each personality trait.
Introverts and Extraverts
It’s easy to think of Introverts as being “more creative” than Extraverts. The popular image of an artist working in seclusion has some basis in reality: in a quiet setting free from other voices, Introverts can immerse themselves in their inner world and hone their own authentic voice. Their ideas may percolate into genius. Often, the biggest challenge for an Introvert is not the creative process itself – it’s finding the courage to put their work out there, to open themselves up to critique, and to convince others to accept unfamiliar ideas.
Extraverts might be at a disadvantage when it comes to shutting themselves away until inspiration strikes, but they have the advantage of collaboration. The fact that Extraverts do not treasure their alone time as Introverts do allows them to pursue a meeting of the minds and take advantage of different forms of creativity, ideation, and feedback. Thomas Edison (a Debater [ENTP] personality type) wasn’t alone – he guided a team of scientists through the invention of the light bulb. Extraverts are more than capable of achieving incredible and lasting innovations too.
Intuitive and Observant Personalities
The creative drive is often readily apparent in Intuitive personality types, who have a reputation for imaginative, visionary thinking and who thrive in moments when the conventional approach fails. These moments give them license to share the wild schemes that they’ve been daydreaming about. Their eagerness to make their dreams a reality can sometimes get them in trouble, though, when they take a risk on an original but not fully formed idea rather than rely on a tried-and-true (but boring) solution.
The solution that works is, in an Observant type’s eyes, the correct one. To them, innovation for innovation’s sake is wasteful. That’s not to say that these personalities don’t value creativity, though they may not speak of it in the glowing terms an Intuitive type might use. Observant types have no problem with creative solutions when those solutions prove effective. With their hands-on approach and thorough grounding in details and circumstance, an Observant personality is often poised to come up with a novel idea that, while not as flashy as an Intuitive type’s, is undeniably creative.
Feeling and Thinking Personalities
Emotion is a quality that we commonly associate with creativity. After all, a singer who pours her heart out during a performance or a novelist whose deep characterization moves readers to joy, anger, or tears can have a powerful, lasting impact on us. Personalities with the Feeling trait often excel in creative endeavors because of their natural empathy and their tendency to view the world through an emotional lens. Their challenge is often to express themselves without indulging in too much navel-gazing or emotional drama, so that others can relate or be receptive to their ideas.
Since Thinking personalities tend to set emotion aside in favor of logic, they can be perceived as cold, calculating, and “less creative” than Feeling types. But in reality, a clear-eyed, focused, and rational approach is often exactly what is needed to think through a problem, make logical connections that others may miss, and devise an innovative solution. Where would we be without the many Thinking-type philosophers, strategists, scientists, engineers, and designers who have shaped our world?
Prospecting and Judging Personalities
“First thought, best thought” could be the motto of the Prospecting personality. With their potential to size up problems within seconds, jump at unexpected opportunities, and form offbeat but pitch-perfect remedies, Prospecting types can garner a reputation for creative brilliance. Unfortunately, their instinctive powers are far from infallible, and they are prone to losing interest in a project before seeing it through to completion. If a Prospecting type begins to trust their snap judgments too much – or if friends or colleagues do so – then a creative winning streak can easily come to a sudden and ignominious end.
For Judging types, a fitting motto might be “Genius is 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration.” While the swift insights of a Prospecting personality are sure to impress, the more gradual approach of a Judging type is no less creative. Judging personalities see creativity as a careful, even arduous process, akin to nurturing a spark into a roaring flame. This approach may result in Judging types working more slowly than Prospecting types – and having their work labeled “dependable” rather than “brilliant” – but they can be confident that any ideas that survive their own rigorous creative process will stand the test of time.
Assertive and Turbulent Personalities
Confidence is, indeed, often critical to creativity, and Assertive personalities are nothing if not confident. The creative process can be intimidating, and it helps to have the self-assurance to take the first step, whether that’s making a bold move or simply getting an idea down on paper. Even Assertive individuals who don’t view themselves as particularly creative have a certain advantage in their relatively relaxed approach to life – when you’re not too worried about a poor result, it can be easier to at least make an attempt at something creative.
Turbulent personalities, because of their tendency to simultaneously strive for perfection and doubt themselves, may struggle more with the creative process, but quite often, our most exciting and memorable work is born out of struggle. A Turbulent type is much more likely to work through multiple drafts or iterations of a project, to take feedback to heart, and to push themselves to become better and better at what they do. The results can be spectacular, but Turbulent personalities must remember that there is a point at which perfectionism becomes unproductive and unhealthy.
How Are You Creative?
When thinking about creativity, the question isn’t “How creative are you?” – it’s “How are you creative?”
Regardless of our specific personality traits, we all have a creative force within us, differing only in how we act upon it, and how it acts upon us. And while some situations will be more conducive to certain approaches than others, it is important to remember that none is qualitatively better.
In fact, the best approach is often a synthesis of different approaches. Great things can be accomplished when we value not only our own creativity, but the creativity of others – no matter how much it differs from our own.