Keith Sawyer adds another important reflection on the issue of creativity-focused scholarship and the challenge of interdisciplinarity in the academy. When we create meta-disciplines of sorts, we challenge the status quo and that can make for a hard slog. Academics are used to thinking in disciplinary terms, using the structures that those organizing frames provide. They change constantly, but slowly and some things take off (e.g., microbiology forms from biology), but certain things do not. In the social sciences, this is particularly true as we’ve seen creativity or fields like evaluation find many homes and no homes at the same time (as Sawyer speaks to on the matter of creativity). Understanding this issue and working around it is a big challenge and opportunity for those of us interested in advancing the reach and respectability of inquiry into creativity.

The Creativity Guru

Creativity researchers don’t really have a place we can call home.

It’s because the study of creativity is interdisciplinary. That’s the key take-home message of my 2012 book Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation. And that’s a problem, if you want a home, because universities are organized into disciplines–such as psychology, anthropology, economics, computer science. And where do creativity researchers fit, into this organizational structure? Most of us don’t fit comfortably anywhere. So where are we?

Many of us are psychologists, and we have homes in psychology departments. (My PhD is in psychology.) And psychologists have made the majority of the scientific contributions to our understanding of creativity. But being in a psychology department has big limitations: you can’t study cultural influences on creativity, you can’t study group and organizational issues–you really are expected to focus on the solitary individual.

I’ve made my home in a department of education…

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Posted by Cameron D. Norman

I am a designer, psychologist, educator, and strategist focused on innovation in human systems. I'm curious about the world around me and use my role as Principal and President of Cense Ltd. as a means of channeling that curiosity into ideas, questions, and projects that contribute to a better world.