Investment and confluence theory of creativity

There are different theories to understand or explain creativity. Professor Sternberg1 proposed two methods of creativity of which The Investment Theory of Creativity was initially proposed in 1991. He built it upon the work of Paul Torrance.2

Sternberg drew a parallel between market investment and being creative. The theory claims that creativity can be developed — it is not necessarily linked to genetics. He believes that creative people can look for ideas that are less costly and then sell it when it is selling at a high price, thus making a profit and moving onto the next investment. They are capable of taking risk, they cultivate new ideas and protect it when others may not be willing to buy it. They are not led by the public but instead make a decision to invest in unique ideas. This may also bring us to the conclusion that the limitations of such creative people is not a result of expectations imposed by the society but the thought process of the person herself!3

Creativity is not inborn, it is an acquired talent characterized by the willingness to carve our own way. The traits that constitute this can be trained methodically. The notable traits that a creative talent needs is an approach to:

  • Rethink the problem before them
  • Be willing to take risk
  • Persist in the face of rejection and resistance due to non-conformity
  • Self examine if they are able to think objectively

Creativity can be characterized by

  • The abilities of a person, the way they look at the world
  • Their thought process
  • Their innate desire to accomplish something
  • The surrounding and the support system in the society
  • Grasp of existing knowledge in the field they are finding solutions in
  • Personality attributes

We see that the society is also responsible or contributing in the process of making a new creative person. If the environment does not yield to any deviant proposals or continuously badgers the person to become conforming then the creative growth can slow down or completely stop.

One may inquire how to become creative, how do we define its origin in practical terms? In the Investment theory of creativity, creativity can be obtained by investing time and other necessary resources into a creative process! The resources that we have to develop or invest in are the six characteristics that were listed earlier and described in detail below.4

  • Intellectual skills
    What matters is not only the skill to conceive new ideas, to inspect problems in novel ways, but also the skill to present it and persuade others to adopt it.
  • Knowledge
    There is delicate balance here, we should be aware of the work done so far to solve a problem, at the same time we must not occupy ourselves with them so much so that we lose the ability to think out-of-the-box, that we become preoccupied or biased by the existing proposed solutions.
  • Thinking Skills
    This is simple, just choose to think about things! Take time and think, and choose to think objectively. Shed your prejudice, identify and eliminating biases in your own thinking.
  • Personality
    This could be summarized as conviction in one’s thought. A willingness to find middle grounds, reconcile conflicts, present the ideas most convincingly to most adverse audience, not getting dazed by rejection but making incremental efforts to find a breakthrough.
  • Motivation
    A person should be self-motivated to be truly creative in finding a solution. The environment can be motivating but what truly differentiates creative investment is to fall in love with the challenge and work on it with genuine interest.
  • Environment
    The environment should have a reward system to eventually spot and encourage these creative people.

What still remains is for the person to will to make the choice in investing in these resources, and align all the investment towards a creative work. In a workshop or academic environment this is achieved by showing them creativity, by being creative.

The most powerful way to develop creativity in your students is to be a role model. Children develop creativity not when you tell them to, but when you show them.

Dr. Leslie Wilson

There is a beautiful interview of Sternberg on this topic, for a podcast, that I would recommend listening. The transcript can be found on questia.5


  1. About Robert J. Sternberg
  2. Paul Torrance
  3. Investment Theory of Creativity by Robert J. Sternberg
  4. Investment Theory of Creativity by Craig Kunce
  5. Creativity-An Investment

Author Comments 3


  1. Very easy way to describe the complex theory. Good job!

  2. Hi Jyoti Madame
    You have written it very nicely the articles but how confluence works on creativity still not getting from your description.

  3. Ma’am, very well explained in a very simple way. But you have focused mainly on The Investment Theory of Creativity. What about the confluence theory of creativity?


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