Creativity and Innovation: A Complex Adaptive Systems Theory

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University of New Brunswick


Creativity and innovation research has been hampered by the lack of an overarching, internally consistent theoretical framework. This dissertation developed the initial parts of a comprehensive complexity theory of creativity. This is an articles-based dissertation, consisting of three articles that make individual contributions to an overall complexity theory of creativity. Each article established a potential link between creativity and one characteristic of complex adaptive systems. One argued for the equivalency of creativity and emergence, a primary characteristic of complex adaptive systems, while another showed how the paradoxes identified through decades of creativity research can be explained by another characteristic of complex adaptive systems, the order-chaos dynamic. A third article argued that the small-world networks associated with complex adaptive systems predict that diffusion-of-innovation patterns will be unpredictable, not normally distributed, as has been the dogma of business school texts for decades. A small number of datasets were analyzed, and the results support this prediction. In the concluding chapter, the results of the three articles have been brought together and a complex adaptive systems model developed. The model incorporates creativity as a central feature and includes continuous evolution and a feedback loop that yields increasing complexity. Together, these three articles represent a strong case for recognizing creativity as a characteristic of complex adaptive systems and for continued efforts along this line of research.