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Creativity and Innovation

Is Context the Key to Greater Creativity and Innovation?

Is Context the Key to Greater Creativity and Innovation?

Creativity and innovation are both areas in which an individual’s thought processes must be seen to be at least somewhat new, fresh and different from others. What this really means is that innovation is a highly context sensitive process. A useful model to think about creative context is shown below.

Creativity and Innovation Diagram

Around the inner layer of this contextual creativity model are the six suggested preconditions of: 1. Beliefs/values, 2. Language, 3. Intelligence, 4. Motivation/interest, 5. Perception, 6. Social/cultural factors. These pre-conditions spell the word ‘blimps’ to help individuals to remember them – of course, blimps are those large balloons or airships that carry people in the sky and often give us a big picture view.

Let’s look at each of these pre-conditions in turn.

BELIEFS/VALUES (open is better than closed or fixed)

Beliefs/values relates to the intrinsic way in which individuals think about their external world. People with open and flexible beliefs or values who are tolerant of creative ideas are quite different to people whose beliefs are more closed and inflexible to variation or change.

LANGUAGE (clear is better than confused or vague)

The pre-condition of language not only relates to the words that we use but to how we convey meaning or translate our ideas in an overall sense. As such, ideas have to be expressed, communicated or conveyed so that they have meaning for another person or a group of people.

INTELLIGENCE (deeply is better than shallowly considered)

Unless individuals have the intelligence to appreciate an idea or a particular innovation, little progress is likely to be made. Once again, intelligence itself is a relative term here – it simply means that the innovation must be recognized and understood.

MOTIVATION/INTEREST (enthused is better than not caring one way or another)

A considerable amount of effort may be made to generate options that are new or different or which represent a better way forward. These efforts are only accepted to be positively creative if individuals perceive them to be of interest to them or they are motivated to act upon them. This at least partly explains different levels of enthusiasm for ideas – some people are motivated about them and some are not.

PERCEPTION (perceived to be useful is better than perceived to be irrelevant)

The pre-condition of perception relates to the way in which an individual sees the idea or the innovation relative to his or her own situation, thoughts, processes, logic, analysis, mental models, etc. This simply means that we need to appreciate that individual’s interpretation of our ideas may be quite different and highly varied in terms of the perceived creativity.

SOCIAL/CULTURAL FACTORS (acceptable in the culture is better than alien to it)

Social and/or cultural factors relate to the way that individuals are brought up, the social and cultural conventions that prevail and the rules and customs that their particular society imposes. This can range from specific taboos (which can inhibit creative thoughts in some cases) to very general societal attitudes.


All six of these so-called pre-conditions can be seen to be ‘mental filters’ or mental stereotypes through which individuals see their world (especially as it relates to creativity and invocation). Not surprisingly these all combine to create a rich tapestry of difference in terms of our overall attitudes, beliefs and behavior. As far as creativity is particularly concerned, the more that we can appreciate the part that these ‘filters’ may play in our thinking, the more that we are likely to be able to ‘free up’ our mind to either be more creative or to build upon the creative ideas of others. In other words, we have to become more self-aware about these contextual factors before we can become truly aware and appreciative of the creative opportunities that exist around us.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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