Creativity across cultures

Creativity cannot exist without circumstantial and environmental support. It doesn’t develop and fails to nurture in a vacuum.

When people talk about a creative person, they fail to contextualize said creativity. They fail to also talk about the person’s background, his/her place of birth, the environment of that region and, most importantly, the degree of weight they place on intellectual training and thoughts. For example, in an isolated Amazonian tribe, a creative individual would be one who could perhaps design light and fast arrow, with minimum effort. But this ability would meet with little amazement in the United States, where guns are the preferred choice of weaponry.

Different cultures value different aspects of creativity. Generally, Eastern cultures are seen to value appropriateness and usefulness over novelty, while Western cultures value the former over the latter. Thus, though it is true that personal cognitive levels have a great input in how creative a person is, society comes into play in how that creativity is manifested and received.

There are a lot of factors that affect and increase creativity, and many are related to culture.

Individualism in Creativity


In most Asian and Eastern cultures, individualism is undervalued when it is pitted against family and society. A person’s own thoughts, while accepted—usually—hold less credibility when seen through the prism of what society would say.

This tightness in which the thought process works makes people come up with ideas that would be accepted by others. The importance of what others think overshadows the idea in itself. In such a situation, ideas that would be hailed as innovative and novel in other parts of the world are lost, while those that are practical and useful, though perhaps not novel enough, are accepted and brought to light.

The world sees only these ideas, and thus labels that particular country or places less or more creative.

Society’s acceptance of changes

Society’s acceptance of change

Again, this factor is linked with the value a culture places on its society and its traditions. Hard and fast cultural norms are difficult to budge. The people propagating these rules would see any thought or idea against their predefined values as an affront and call to war. They would rise up against such creative and foreign notions, which would, in turn, discourage others to think along those lines for themselves.

In such an atmosphere, creativity that runs parallel with these ideas is encouraged, while that which questions ancient opinions and mindsets is suppressed.

The importance of education for creativity


Education is the most important dynamic that influences creativity. In some cultures, more importance is placed on a child’s ability to be able to provide food for his/her household after graduation and take care of the family. In such cases, schools place more merit in cramming the children with information that would later allow them to secure a good position on their exams and get a job as soon as possible.

Alternatively, other cultures allow their children more space, where the value is placed on the uniqueness of a child rather than his being able to feed himself in the future. In these places, schools focus on more intellectually challenging tasks, programs that encourage diversity of thought in the child and push him/her to strive to be different.

In Western Cultures, where the latter approach is prevalent, students have to cope with the effects of feeling like a failure, instances of which are higher here than on the other side of the world. In Eastern Cultures, the children might grow to get better jobs, but they have no space to think outside the box and different from their peers, thus creating the impression that the East is less creative than the west. And still education influences creativity the most.

Different people think differently

Diverse groups

Different groups, even in the same cultural atmosphere, think differently. For example, in places where religion is entrenched in society, people from different sects and different religious groups think in ways that often run contrary to the other. Here, creative ideas would have to satisfy a wide variety of thoughts and beliefs, with all their different nuances and shades, hence creating an oppressive atmosphere where no one is happy for some reason or the other.