My Attempt at Tracking Creativity
The pursuit of creativity and self-expression are among the personal values that influence my happiness. Unfortunately, most of the creativity tests that exist today require you to perform certain tasks (e.g., solve a problem, draw something, etc.), involve other people rating your performance, and thus are not suitable for everyday self-tracking. I needed something more simple and more general, so one of my Quantified Self challenges this year was to develop a method to measure and track my creativity on a regular basis. After several unsuccessful tests in January-February, I finally ended up with a 4-question measure that may have a great potential.
According to contemporary theory, creativity involves using both divergent and problem solving skills. For example, the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking test (TTCT) looks at four major dimensions of creativity that reflect these skills:
- Fluency (how many solutions were introduced to the problem)
- Flexibility (how diverse were these solutions)
- Originality (how well do these solutions stand out)
- Elaboration (amount of detail)
During the test, subjects are presented with a task, and their performance is then rated on above mentioned dimensions by a team of expert raters. My approach to measuring creativity is a modified version of TTCT. Instead of focusing on a specific stimulus-task, I evaluate ALL creative work done during the day, including 9-to-5 work, personal research, blogging and occasionally photography. Specifically, at the end of every day in March, I used my rTracker log (you can also use Track-and-Share app), to assess the following qualities of my creative work:
- Elaboration: how elaborated and detailed were my posts/work/research today; I used 10-point sliding scale
- Novelty: whether I started working on something new today; I used single checkbox (0/1 value)
- Originality: whether I created something original (in my opinion) today (again, logged using single checkbox);
- Solution: whether I found a solution today for any problem that I had (again, logged using checkbox)
Now, one simple way to quantify creativity on any particular day is to look at the arithmetic mean of all four scores (I multiplied Novelty, Originality and Solution scores by 10 to keep the mean on the same scale as original scores). This is how my daily creativity looked like in March. Please note that I did not log creativity on weekends, but for aesthetic reasons, I removed those gaps from the graph:
Another way to think of creativity is as of a 2-dimensional variable. In my opinion, Elaboration is less reflective of creativity. Conceptually, it has to do more with productivity: no matter what kind of work I perform, the degree of elaboration is always there. Creativity, on the other hand, may be completely absent at times. Thus, it makes sense to separate Elaboration from the other three qualities and present creativity as a combination of two scores:
Now that I have creativity metrics, I can look for some interesting patterns. Here is, for example, how my creativity and its components differ across days of the week (I used median scores):
According to this analysis, in March, I was most productive on Tuesdays and Thursdays (median Elaboration scores 8.1 and 7.9), and least productive on Fridays (median Elaboration score 5.4). If you use only three dimensions of creativity (novelty, originality, and solution), then I was most creative on Wednesdays (median Creativity-3 score 8.3) and least creative on Mondays and Thursdays (median Creativity-3 scores 5.0 and 5.0). If you look at the composite creativity score (creativity + elaboration), then Tuesdays and Wednesdays were my most creative days (Creativity scores of 7.1 and 7.8) and Mondays least creative (Creativity score of 5.4). Thursdays were also interesting because of disparities between elaboration and creativity: I seemed to work a lot, but was not creating much.
Overall, I would say that this simple approach to measuring creativity has a great potential, and I will continue using it in the future.