These definitions range from a focus on ‘being creative’ (‘the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness’, Oxford Dictionary) to an emphasis on the results of creativity (‘the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems’, Human Motivation, Robert E. Franken).

I find the range of definitions reassuring. There is a lot of emphasis put on creativity within qualitative research, and it often brings to mind arts-based activities with participants, the kind of thing that Martin Gent talks about in his article.

But much of what we do as researchers involves innovating to solve problems. The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has done a lot of work on creativity, and talks about the combination of challenge and skill leading to a state of creative flow — so it turns out that we can all be creative, simply by doing our work well.

More broadly, the economic state of flux that we have been experiencing since 2008 has sparked a whole host of creative, entrepreneurial initiatives, and is driving business awareness of and interest in creativity. The excitement over the recent launch of How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg illustrates this perfectly.

So that’s why we’ve put together this issue of In Depth: to explore the different facets of creativity, illustrate its relevance to business and research, and help you find your own definition.