Quotable Mumford
A collection of insightful & memorable offerings from the work of Dr. Mumford.

Home: Editorial
Key Learnings: Bridging Creativity and Systems Thinking
The Work: The Assessment and Development of High Level Talent
Book Review: Pathways to Outstanding Leadership
Book Review: Leadership 101

The Assessment and Development of Highlevel Talent

  Identification and Measurement
of Creative Thinking Skills

Creative Thinking Skills
Leadership Skills
Workplace Structure
Life History Path


As a quantitative meta-analysis of creativity training program efforts, Scott, Leritz, and Mumford (2004) provides an ideal starting point to look the topic of identification and measurement of creative thinking skills. It states:

Based on 70 prior studies, it was found that well-designed creativity training programs typically induce gains in performance with these effects generalizing across criteria, settings, and target populations. (p. 361)

And in the discussion following the presentation of their findings they assert: “Taken as a whole, these observations lead to a relatively unambiguous conclusion. Creativity training works” (p. 382). Looking further at Mumford’s work provides important insight into the creative process which also helps identify the most effective approaches to creativity training.

Mumford, Mobley, Uhlman, Reiter-Palmon, and Doares (1991) identified eight core processes required for creative problem solving:  

(a) problem construction or problem finding,
(b) information encoding and retrieving (information gathering)
(c) Category search (concept search and selection)
(d) conceptual combination
(e) Combination and reorganization of best-fitting categories ( idea generation)
(f) idea evaluation,
(g) implementation planning, and
(h) action monitoring.

This specific list of core process, citing Mumford et al. (1991), was presented in Scott, Leritz, and Mumford (2004). It is interesting to note that this later version of the list renamed some of the processes. The renamed versions are presented in the parenthetical notes. Particularly surprising, and therefore of  interest is item (e). Combination and reorganization processes are prominent in much of Mumford’s work on creative thinking skills. Mumford and Gufstafson (1988) proposes that the combination and reorganization that typcially occurs during the transitions of young adulthood contribute to the cogitive processes that also produce the creative achievements in the stage of life. Mobley, Doares, and Mumford (1992) showed combination and reorginization favorably influenced solutions quality and originality. Scott, Lonergan, and Mumford (2005) looked at conceptual combinations using both case based and analogical heuristics to look further at combination and reorginization processes.

Returning to Scott, Leritz, and Mumford (2004) and their findings that training stressing the cognitive processing activities commonly held to underlie creative efforts, specifically the core processes identified by Mumford et al. (1991), was positively related to study success. This is what makes the change in language away from the cognitive process of combination and reorganization to the more generic term idea generation so surprising.

This is underscored by Mumford, Hunter, and Byrne (2009):

Given the strong effects of cognition on creativity, and the stability of these effects across samples (undergraduates verses leaders), tasks (process tests verses think-aloud protocols), and methods (experiments vs. field studies), it seems to us that cognition represents a plausible fundamental for understanding creativity and innovation in organizations. (p. 354)

“…these observation lead to relatively unambiguous conclusion. Creativity training works.”

(Scott, Leritz, & Mumford, 2004, p. 382)