• Linda Pizzitola

A Creative Personality?


Is there such a thing? Last spring, Professor Øyvind L. Martinsen of BI Norwegian School of Management published a personality profile of creative people he found in his research with 481 subjects.


‘Creative’ was defined as the capacity to come up with ideas to serve a purpose. He identified seven traits common to performing artists and advertising students (the creative group) that were not prominent in lecturers and managers (the baseline group). These included:

  1. Associative orientation.  Imaginative, playful, have a wealth of ideas, ability to be committed, sliding transitions between fact and fiction.

  2. Need for originality.  Resists rules and conventions. Have a rebellious attitude due to a need to do things no one else does.

  3. Motivation.  Have a need to perform, goal-oriented, innovative attitude, stamina to tackle difficult issues.

  4. Ambition.  Have a need to be influential, attract attention and recognition.

  5. Flexibility.  Have the ability to see different aspects of issues and come up with optional solutions.

  6. Low emotional stability.  Have a tendency to experience negative emotions, greater fluctuations in moods and emotional state, failing self-confidence.

  7. Low sociability.  Have a tendency not to be very considerate, are obstinate and find faults and flaws in ideas and people.

By far, the two strongest predictors of creativity, as measured by a 200 question survey, were associative orientation and flexibility. Martinsen links associative orientation to ingenuity and flexibility to insight. Flexibility also reflects the ability to re-frame a problem as a challenge or an opportunity.


Having an ‘associative orientation’ means having an active imagination. “You can fluctuate between daydreaming and perceiving reality,” says Martinsen. “You’re playful and have an experimental attitude.” But you are also able to become deeply absorbed in your work.


Mind maps and other brainstorming techniques encourage an unbridled run of loose and playful free association before exposing ideas to critical thinking. Associative orientation may involve connecting the dots in new ways, seeing new relationships (i.e. metaphors, visual puns), and opening to non-cognitive ways of knowing such as intuition, emotional feedback and visceral responses from the body.


The other five traits describe emotional inclinations and motivational factors that influence creativity or spark an interest in creativity.


Martinsen suggests that management training could benefit from more emphasis on visualizing, generating new ideas (or re-combining existing ones), and fantasizing. He also reports that a typically non-creative person can become much more so when his or her surroundings encourage rule-bending and free thought.


“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of  life’s coming attractions.”  -Albert Einstein


“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”  -Dr. Seuss


Reference:  The Creative Personality: A Synthesis and Development of the Creative Person Profile, Creativity Research Journal, Volume 23, Issue 3, 2011, 185-202, doi: 10.1080/10400419.2011.595656.

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