Creative Thinking

The Consensual Assessment Technique

Teresa Amabile's Consensual Assessment Technique (CAT) has often been called the 'Gold Standard' of creativity assessment. Find out why...

Measuring creativity is a difficult task and a wide range of tests have been designed and developed in order to try and discern peoples’ creative aptitudes. Previously we’ve covered popular methods for measuring divergent and convergent creative thinking using the Alternative Uses Test and the Remote Associates Test. In this article we’ll look at another popular tool for measuring creativity, the Consensual Assessment Technique.

The Consensual Assessment technique was developed by Harvard Business School Professor and renowned psychologist Teresa Amabile, who first outlined the technique in this 1982 Harvard paper. Amabile is one of the leading figures in creativity research – and has argued that rather than trying to ‘manage’ creativity, we should instead focus on ‘managing for’ creativity.

The Consensual Assessment technique has often been called the ‘Gold Standard’ of creativity assessment and is widely regarded as one of the most effective tools for measuring creative work. Essentially, the technique is based around measuring creativity using an assortment of judges, who assess creative works individually and in isolation.

The views of judges are then collected and collated so that an overall rating or measure can be established. It is the use of experts instead of standardised questionnaires or exercises that makes the test so unique, and flexible, as it can be applied to a huge range of disciplines and types of creative work.

One of the most important factors when utilising the technique is selecting credible judges. Judges are usually experienced experts in the domain being assessed, so the work of designers, for example, would be best assessed by a series of judges with design backgrounds. The Consensual Assessment Technique allows for subjective viewpoints and preferences to be taken into account, recognising that everyone has a different view of what is creative.

However, the use of expert judges also presents challenges; as finding qualified experts to judge the work can be a difficult, time-consuming task. Also determining who is qualified or experienced enough to qualify as a judge can be a contentious issue, and a considerable effort has to go into preparing for assessments – taking into account the availability and suitability of all of the judges who are taking part.

Having said that, this use of experienced judges is also one of the technique’s strengths. As creative work is inherently subjective, and difficult to measure using conventional, standardised scales and tools the Consensual Assessment allows each assessment to be carried out by people with experience and expert knowledge of the field. This allows the nuances of the work being analysed to be understood and incorporated into the scoring, and aspects of creative work that may often be overlooked using conventional measuring tools are included in the assessment.

Further readingFor further reading, try this paper by John Baer and Sharon McKool.

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