Koestler & Creativity

Arthur Koestler (whose bequest founded the Edinbugh Koestler Parapsychology Unit) introduced his analogy for the creative process in his 1964 work The Act of Creation. It is based around a trinity of roles - Artist, Sage and Jester. These roles might be individuals but they need not be - they could represent different facets of one person or different departments within an organisation. The three are also summarised (by Brian Clegg) as "Aahh, Ah ha and Ha Ha!".

Artist, Sage, Jester


The Artist looks for beauty, elegance of form and solution. It is probably the role closest to the common perception of creativity. For the Artist things have to fit and feel right - this role is about synthesis, poetry and intuition. When the Artist knows something is right this is the "Aahh" moment.


The Sage is the problem solver, using tools of analysis to dissect the challenge into its component parts and see how they work. This is a role for the intellect fired by flashes of inspiration - the scientist, inventor and crossword puzzle solver. When the Sage discovers something this is the "Ah ha!" moment.


The Jester is an often undervalued role, especially in business. The Jester pokes fun at things and plays with them, taking them to pieces and rearranging them in unusual ways. The Jester often produces ludicrous results - the "Ha ha" moment - but very often this is what is needed to break out of a conceptual rut. Like the court Jester of old, the creative Jester can think the unthinkable - and say it.

Using the Koestler Model

This is all very interesting, but what practical use is it?

The main application of the Artist, Sage, Jester model is appreciating that there are various elements that go together to make up creativity. Most of us are stronger in one than in the others. Once we recognise that then we can either make a conscious decision to "play to our strengths" or we can attempt to improve our instincts in the other areas.

In a team situation such as business, recognising the different creative types can assist in determining team membership and understanding the group dynamics that occur when disagreements surface.

There are many managers who could really benefit from a Jester to metaphorically whack them with a pig's bladder.