Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
THE UTILITY OF DISTINGUISHING POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE CREATIVITY
Creativity is important to the lone soul; to groups large, small, formal, and informal; and to whole societies and cultures (Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). To capitalize on creativity, however, individuals, organizations, and societies need to understand how different types of people will respond, as far as creativity goes, to different conditions and tasks (Amabile, 1996).
Virtually all existing empirical and theoretical work on creativity to this point, however, has either explicitly focused on or implicitly assumed only positive outcomes from creativity (James, Clark, & Cropanzano, 1999; McLaren, 1993, 1999). That is, creativity is seen as the production of beneficial products (concrete or abstract) by novel means. Discussions of creativity tend to assume that it is always socially desirable. Although a few individuals have mentioned the possibility of negative creativity, that side of creativity has received relatively little research or theoretical attention. Creativity can, though, produce results that are damaging or unpleasant to other individuals, to groups, or to society at large.
Both the most widely used definitions of creativity and the full range of real-world instances of it indicate that creativity does not necessarily produce positive effects. Probably the most widely used definition of creativity is the generation of products or problem solutions that are both novel and useful (Amabile, 1996; James et al., 1999; Runco, 1991). Usefulness is subjective; what is useful to me could be either useless or harmful to you.