Creativity and Innovative Processes as a Complex Adaptive System: Propositions

In previous research studies we identified the characteristics of complex adaptive systems (CAS; Turner & Baker, 2018; 2020). These eight characteristics include path dependent, systems have a history, non-linearity, emergence, irreducible, adaptive, operates between order and chaos, and self-organizing.

We identified the processes of creativity and innovation as being a complex adaptive system. We found support for each of these eight characteristics in our study (Turner & Baker, 2020). Through this research we identified a number of propositions, for each of these CAS characteristics. These propositions are listed below:

Path Dependent

Proposition 1: Creativity and innovative processes are path dependent by being either a resource, an interrupter, or a transformation.

Systems Have a History

Proposition 2: Creativity and innovative processes have an initial starting point that consists of the creators’ childhood, knowledge, skills, and behaviors.

Proposition 3: Creativity and innovative processes are self-motivating when other people acknowledge one’s initial starting point in their work.


Proposition 4: The creativity and innovative processes result form a combination of both linear and non-linear processes.


Proposition 5: Emergence at the individual level results from being in a state of flow.

Proposition 6: One’s creativity and innovative processes are validated when people external of the processes acknowledge the work.

Proposition 7: Creativity and innovative processes result from making sense out of chaos-organized chaos.


Proposition 8: The creativity and innovative processes require removal of all constraints before beginning the process.

Proposition 9: The techniques one uses for creating and innovating are constantly being challenged with newer techniques.

Proposition 10: Completely disregarding a product or new technique is necessary when one is unable to make sense out of the chaos.


Proposition 11: While drawing on others’ work (e.g., mentors, teachers, peers), one must develop their own identity as a creator.

Proposition 12: Adaptive requires doing what you can with what you have at the time.

Operates Between Order and Chaos

Proposition 13: Creativity and innovative processes require a balance between chaotic and organized processes.

Proposition 14: Learning from chaos, making sense of chaos, is required for creativity and innovative processes.


Proposition 15: Self-organizing becomes automatic once the creativity and innovative processes have developed.

Proposition 16: Creativity and innovative processes become automatic when the creator is able to work on their desired project.

Proposition 17: Creators support other creators.

[Propositions from Turner & Baker, 2020]


Turner, J. R., Baker, R., & Morris, M. (2018). Complex adaptive systems: Adapting and managing teams and team conflict. In A. A. V. Boas (Ed.), Organizational conflict (pp. 65-94). INTECH Open Science. 

urner, J. R., & Baker, R. (2020). Just doing the do: A case study testing creativity and innovative processes as a complex adaptive system. New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development, 32(2), 40-61. 

Image: Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

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