Vygotsky on Collective Creativity

I just read this English-language translation of an old Russian text by the psychologist Lev Vygotsky, and it surprisingly foreshadows contemporary scientific understandings of creativity and innovation:

Our everyday understanding of creativity does not fully conform to the scientific understanding of this word. According to everyday understanding, creativity is the realm of a few selected individuals, geniuses, talented people….we typically believe that such creativity is completely lacking in the life of the ordinary person. However, this view is incorrect. Creativity is present not only when great historical works are born, but also whenever a person imagines, combines, alters, and creates something new, no matter how small a drop in the bucket this new thing appears. When we consider the phenomenon of collective creativity, which combines all these drops of individual creativity that frequently are insignificant in themselves, we readily understand what an enormous percentage of what has been created by humanity is a product of the anonymous collective creative work of unknown inventors. The overwhelming majority of inventions were produced by unknown individuals.*

This is very similar to the findings I report in my 2007 book Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration, and also is captured right in the title of Peter Sims’ wonderful book Little Bets. I elaborate this scientific research at greater length in my 2012 book Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation.

*pp. 10-11 in: Lev Vygotsky, English translation published 2004 as “Imagination and creativity in childhood,” Journal of Russian and East European Psychology, Volume 42 Issue 1, pp. 7-97. From the original Russian text published in 1967: Voobrazhenie i tvorchestvo v detskom vozraste (Moscow: Prosveshchenie).

Thanks to Professor Susan Davis for sharing this manuscript with me!

2 thoughts on “Vygotsky on Collective Creativity

  1. Most excellent!!! This is great to read that someone else, decades has the same conclusion that so many others today believe.
    No small group of select individuals have sole claims to creativity and innovation.

    Thanks for putting this content up on your site.

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