I used to frequently write #WorkplaceChinese posts, dissecting Chinese phrases to unearth multidimensional meanings. They’ve slowed down but recently, someone asked me to post about the Chinese word for “Creativity.”

Great question, Jozef! The Chinese phrase for “Creativity” is 创意, pronounced “chuàng yì”. Let’s break it apart to see what the characters reveal.

创 (chuàng) means “to begin or create.” Interestingly, this word comes with a sense of sudden impact or violence. You see, 创 can also mean “trauma” or “to crash”.

The second character, 意 (yì), translates to “idea”. It can also represent the concepts of meaning, intention, expectation, or anticipation. 

So creativity is about the sudden crash of ideas and intentions.

What a viscerally intriguing phrase! I believe there’s truth here – creativity is born from the collision of interesting, curious people. It comes upon us in crashing waves and jarring, eye-popping excitement. Creativity crashes!

Now here’s a bonus, related observation: the word for innovation is 创新 (chuàng xīn). 

“Innovation” starts with the same first character as “Creativity”: 创 (chuàng) – that sudden crash of creation. The second character, 新 (xīn), means “new”. So “Innovation” is about something new, crashing into being.

Does the unpacking of these two words evoke any new thoughts for you?

For a few more #workplacechinese posts, check out: