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4 Examples of Creative Tension

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I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension."
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Creative tension is the idea that disagreement and discord can produce more creative ideas and outcomes. The following are illustrative examples.

Intellectual Diversity

Creative tension suggests that teams with diverse opinions and intellectual backgrounds may produce creative results. Conversely, institutions that restrict membership to like-minded individuals or suppress unpopular opinions may stagnate creatively.

Tolerance for Disagreement

Environments where disagreement such as lively debate are viewed as healthy and constructive. Conversely, institutions that seek to protect everyone's feelings or that enshrine group harmony such as saving-face as a core principle would be less creative.


Creativity is often associated with optimism. The theory of creative tension suggests that pessimism may play a role. For example, a pessimistic evaluation of how far you are from your goals may spark more ideas than a warm optimistic feeling that everything will probably work out wonderfully.


Creative tension can be used to describe how individuals or groups with little formal authority in a particular context can rise to generate positive change by creating a sense of tension around an issue.
Overview: Creative Tension
The idea that disagreement and discord can produce creative ideas and outcomes.
Related Concepts


This is the complete list of articles we have written about creativity.
Creative Ability
Creative Class
Creative Direction
Creative Economy
Creative Expression
Creative Feedback
Creative Hobbies
Creative Industries
Creative Intuition
Creative Leadership
Creative Process
Creative Productivity
Creative Quality
Creative Spark
Creative Tension
Creative Things
Creative Thinking
Creative Value
Creative Works
Creativity Theory
Divergent Thinking
Idea Generation
Intellectual Diversity
Inventive Step
Magical Thinking
Metaphysical Conceit
Motley Crew
Preserving Ambiguity
Reverse Brainstorming
Thought Experiment
Work Creativity
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