Group Processes

Albert Einstein once said, ‘Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labour in freedom.’ The idea of group creativity is almost an oxymoron. But perhaps it is unhelpful to separate the creativity of individual minds from the communities within which they flourish. People, after all, understand themselves not only as individuals but also as members of the groups to which they belong.

Evidence also suggests that social identification shapes creativity. Collaborative discussions with friends, colleagues or peers can foster new ideas: think the Bloomsbury Group, and experiments have also found that social, not personal identity bolsters enthusiasm and encourages people to face challenges in creative projects, seeing them through to completion.

Engagement with groups can also stimulate and foster creative ideas for change. The groups themselves might also provide a form of identity, and a greater chance of recognition. People are far more likely to support a creative project if its instigator is a member of their group because often people’s perceptions of creativity depend on whether the creator is, ‘one of us’. And for their part, good creators must have a strong sense of their audiences. Even when work is inspired by a need to separate from a group, a successful creator is one who is familiar with the group he or she wishes to deviate from.

​But, eventually, even rebel creators need new audiences willing to embrace the new way of seeing things. We must still celebrate the creative genius of individuals yet also recognise that the psychology of creativity involves the groups in which creators developed their work. And the creators must not forget the need for an approving audience.

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