How Does “Creativity” Translate Across Different Cultures?

A new report shows the variety in attitude and approach to creativity in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Brazil, Turkey, Russia, China, and India.

How Does “Creativity” Translate Across Different Cultures?
[Photo: Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker]

What is creativity? What does it mean to be creative? And, assuming you can come up with your own definition, how do you think it differs from others around the world? Those are just a few of the questions addressed in a new report from agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky London and Vlad Glaveanu, an associate professor at Aalborg University’s International Center for the Cultural Psychology of Creativity in Denmark.


Interviewing 806 young professional men and women in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Brazil, Turkey, Russia, China, and India, the report highlights three key topics. First, it defines a new global definition of creativity–combining originality, meaningfulness, and value–and the way that this manifests itself around the world. Second, it reveals a surprisingly lower degree of creative self-confidence in Europe and, in contrast, the creative optimism on display in markets that are currently growing economically. And third, it highlights the increasing importance of seeing creativity as a process to engage in collaboratively, rather than rely on a lone creative genius to dream up a solution.

In response to the statement, “creativity matters for professional life,” agreement peaked in Turkey (88%) followed by China (80%), India (79%), Brazil (78.3%), and the U.S. (76.2%). Meanwhile, respondents from Russia (59.8%), Germany (58%), and the U.K. (57.8%) were more reserved about the role of creativity in the workplace.

The finding that CP+B London CEO Richard Pinder found most surprising was the dominant emphasis on the creative individual rather than creative collaboration found primarily in the U.S. (75.2%) and China (72%), a finding which belies China’s collectivist heritage. “I was surprised at how China is more individualistic than people in Europe would perhaps give them credit for,” says Pinder. “In a sense you can rationalize it. In a country of 1.3 billion, there’s always someone who can replace you.”

Photo: Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker

Another finding was around overall support for the idea that people are more creative when they work together. Agreement with this statement peaks in India (81%), followed by the U.S. (75.3%), Brazil (74.3%), and Turkey (71%).

“The history of studying creativity has always revolved around the idea of genius,” says Glaveanu. “We had questions in this survey, asking people if they still hang on to this idea that creativity is something rare, something innate, something very few people have. And one of the first things for me that stood out was that, globally, we move from this image or old fascination of the individual genius toward an idea that everyone can create. And beyond that, we need to collaborate in order to be creative.”

Check out the full report here.

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.