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Ruth Noller's Creativity Formula
by Russell A. Wheeler, MS

"Don't memorize formulas; work them out instead."

—Ruth Noller

"Ruth Noller, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Creative Studies at Buffalo State College, developed a symbolic equation for creativity." (Isaksen, Dorval, & Treffinger, 1994, p.6). Her background in mathematics led her to create a "creativity formula" suggesting that creativity (represented by "C") is a function (represented by "f") of the following:

  • K (knowledge) - obtained through our life experiences.

  • I (imagination) - ones ability to generate ideas or make connections.

  • E (evaluation) - examining the advantages and disadvantages of a particular idea or situation.


Noller emphasizes "that the equation is not so precise as to define how many parts of knowledge, imagination or evaluation need to be present for creativity to exist" (Campos, 2000). Consider a child who's perceived to be strong in imagination and not as strong in knowledge or evaluation. Likewise, adults may possess varied levels of knowledge and evaluation, but may lack the belief or understanding of how tap into their imagination. Noller may not have suggested specific levels of the three areas, but it's essential to utilize all three components for personal creativity to succeed.


The most important piece of the equation is the small letter "a," which represents the need for a positive attitude. Without this, personal creativity cannot flourish. In order to maximize your creative abilities, consider your "K,I,E." But never forget your positive attitude and belief that you are creative.




  • Campos, Virginia. (2000). Dr. Ruth Noller: Contributions to creativity. Unpublished masters project, State University of New York College at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY.

  • Isaksen, S. G., Dorval, K. B., & Treffinger, D. J. (1994). Creative approaches to problem solving. Dubuque, IA: Kendall-Hunt.

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