Sometimes a brick is only a brick (Creativity ‘Test’)

Things you can do with a brick:
1. Build part of a wall.
# End of list.
Pablo Picasso (nope, not really)

One of the ‘tests’ of creativity I really abhor is the “brick test” (see, e.g., this posting). Participants are asked to name as many alternative uses for a brick as possible.

My problem with this test is mostly that it covers only one aspect of creativity — the ability for divergent thinking, of coming up with a lot of different ideas. But that’s only one, and rather small aspect of creativity. But with all the fun of finding “so creative” uses for a brick, that issue is often overlooked. As is the issue that you are dealing with a completely artificial situation. The reduction to one process makes it possible to “standardize” the test, of comparing individuals with it, crucial for science, but for actual real-life creativity?

To be creative, you not only need the ability to come up with different uses. Most importantly, you need content knowledge. You have to creatively use your existing knowledge and come up with ideas that are new and useful . You have to know a lot and still be able to play with that knowledge, even if your assumptions might point you in another direction or scream “wrong, wrong, wrong”. And you frequently have to do this in interaction with other people who possess similar knowledge and do actually scream “wrong, wrong, wrong”.

In my opinion, that is completely different than playing around with possible ideas for a brick.