DeGraff and His Five Levels of Creativity

Different types of creativity are defined by the processes they combine. Some emerge thanks to reflection, while others are activated almost randomly. Moreover, we can all be creative if we explore and exercise this capacity.
DeGraff and His Five Levels of Creativity
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 03 January, 2023

Jeffrey Thomas DeGraff is a Ph.D. in Education. Moreover, he’s become renowned worldwide for his work on conflicting values and complex learning. One of his best-known proposals is that there are five types of creativity. To make this classification, he took into account how creativity is generated and the processes involved.

According to DeGraff, the five types of creativity also correspond to five levels of creation. They range from the simplest to the most complex. He starts from the idea that all human beings possess a creative seed, at all levels. However, it only germinates if we work to develop it.

In general terms, creativity is defined as the ability to adopt new points of view in the face of old problems. From this, solutions are produced that are innovative and applicable. According to DeGraff, this capacity manifests itself in different fields. Here, we’ll take a look at his five levels of creativity.

You may not be a Shakespeare, a Rembrandt or a Leonardo, but you can always work to increase your own creative capacity. All of these approaches are at your fingertips – you just have to keep trying new things. Remember that a creative life means you build it as you go.”

-Jeff DeGraff-

Woman thinks of creative ideas
According to DeGraff, the five types of creativity are mimetic, bisociative, analogical, narratological, and intuitive.

1. Mimetic

Mimetic comes from the word, mimesis. It’s from Ancient Greek and means to imitate. Mimetic creativity is the process that occurs when an individual takes an already created form or process and employs it in a new context.

For example, a hospital director who wants to improve their patient experience visits a famous hotel to observe the way they treat customers. He subsequently recreates it to a certain extent, in his own hospital.

2.. Bisociative creativity

Bisociative creativity connects a familiar idea with another extremely foreign one to generate a hybrid and innovative result. It integrates two elements or techniques to produce a new and useful result.

This type of creativity is generally stimulated by brainstorming. Its dynamic corresponds to the so-called 3 Fs.

  • Fluency. It’s more productive to have many unpolished ideas than a few well-defined ones. In fact, diversity helps to expand the range of possibilities.
  • Flexibility. Alternative priority must be given to various ideas. This is because, often, the ‘most correct’ idea isn’t the best structured.
  • Flow. Neither type of creativity emerges under pressure. Indeed, enjoyment and relaxation help good ideas emerge.

An example of bisociative creativity is the photographer who touches up his images with watercolors. Alternatively, a cook who mixes Peruvian and Mexican food to obtain a fusion dish.

3. Analogical creativity

Analogical creativity uses analogies to transfer information from one field, to solve a problem in another. Analogies disrupt traditional thinking to make way for new ideas.

One example of this is the artisan who uses discarded plastic bottles to make curtains or even a wall. Another notable example is that of James Dyson, who changed the mechanism of vacuum cleaners. He took the idea from the way a cyclone develops.

4. Narratological creativity

Narratological creativity is directly associated with the art of storytelling. It’s based on the use of a linguistic code and logic. These are given unusual or surprising uses or combinations, to produce coherent and captivating narratives.

Narratives can be conducted with words, images, flavors, sounds, and sequential elements.

woman writing
Narrative creativity is mainly a characteristic of writers and publicists.

5. Intuitive creativity

Intuitive creativity is the purest kind. In this case, there are no conscious processes, but rather a connection with our own inner worlds. In fact, it’s guided by emotion and sensitivity.

An obvious example is that of the mother who entertains her son by making random gestures. Her creativity and its ‘staging’ doesn’t follow any established logic or procedure.

As noted earlier, DeGraff claims that all five types of creativity are present in us all. However, if you want them to flow, you have to carry out activities, exercises, or practices that bring them to light.

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