10 Most Relevant Questions for Understanding Creativity

  1. What is creativity?
    Creativity is most commonly defined as an idea that is new and useful. A new idea doesn’t need to invent the wheel; it can be a new combination of old ideas. Steve Jobs said that “creativity is connecting things.” Most new ideas connect things that already exist  in a new way. Adding a new spice to a traditional dish is creative. Creativity can be that simple, and it can be as complex as the Mona Lisa.
  2. What is the most damaging myth about creativity? 
    Many believe that some people have a genetic disposition to be creative and that others are born without the ability to be creative. The truth is that  everyone is creative! The creativity gene is in everyone’s DNA. Although we come to this world with different talents and personalities we are all wired to be creative. But instead of growing their own creative capacities by practicing creativity, over 50% of Americans opt out because of the false belief that they are not creative.
  3. What do all creative people have in common? 
    Curiosity is the lowest common denominator found in creative people. As much as artists, scientists, or philosophers differ in their creativity, they all share an openness to new experiences, the curiosity to discover new territories.
  4. What does the creative process look like? 
    In 1926 Graham Wallas developed a theory that outlined the creative process in four stages:

    • Preparation: gathering of ideas and information
    • Incubation: combining ideas mostly unconsciously
    • Illumination: gaining insight
    • Verification: critique and editing of ideas

    This process rarely happens in a linear order. Artists goes back and forth between different stages and switch between phases of divergent and convergent thinking.

  5. When do creative insights happen? 
    Most creative insights happen when we don’t consciously think about the project at hand. Daydreaming and mind wandering, like when taking a shower, are very conducive to finding creative breakthroughs. Many artists and scientists make the experience that the so called “aha moment” happens when their brains are not actively working on a project. Albert Einstein explained,  “I never came upon any of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.” It was through daydreaming and musical inspirations that his breakthrough ideas revealed themselves to him. But inspiration only happens if there had previously been a time to accumulate ideas and information. Only through work, effort, and mastership can insights magically pop up.  As Einstein said, “A new idea comes suddenly and in a rather intuitive way. But intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience.”
  6. What drives humans to be creative? 
    The motivation to be creative is inherently human. The first documentation of human life show acts of creativity. For example, early cave drawings show creativity. Humans experience artistic expression as fun and satisfying. Why?When we are engaged in a creative activity we often enter a state of “flow,” where we are fully immersed in what we are doing. We experience that state as very positive because in “flow” our body releases dopamine. This chemical stimulation makes us feel good while creating. It is our biological disposition that the discovery of novelties stimulates pleasure in our brain. This built-in reward system guarantees that the human species will always been eager to invent and develop new ideas.
  7. What happens in the brain while being creative? 
    For a long time creativity was associated with the right side of the brain. Neuroscientists recently discovered that while being creative the right and the left half of the brain are connected. Creativity draws on a wide range of whole-brain processes. Several studies revealed that people who score high in creativity tests and have a lot of creative and artistic experiences have significantly more connections between the right and the left brain hemisphere.
  8. How can you become more creative? 
    One’s ability to create improves over time. Creativity is like a muscle that gets stronger the more it is used. Whereas our IQ is mostly genetically determined and can only change slightly through training, our creative capacity changes and improves more we use it. Neuroscientists explain this phenomenon with neuroplacticity and neurogenesis of the human brain. Neuroplasticity describes a process in which your brain creates and reorganizes new connections between neurons. Every time we engage in a creative activity those connections become more efficient. That means those connections become stronger and faster. And as a result it becomes easier for us to be creative.When people believe they are not creative it starts a vicious circle. Since they believe they can’t be creative they don’t pursue creative activities and therefore their brains don’t develop the ability to be creative. You can stop that circle at any given age and start building your creative capacity. It is never too late.
  9. What are the conditions that creativity needs to grow? 
    New creative ideas are delicate and vulnerable seedlings that need the right climate and attitude to grow. According to the author Sylvia Plath, “the worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”  And while self-doubt and judgement are necessary parts of the creative process, they can also stifle or kill creativity and build mental blocks when not balanced. The early stages of a creative project are especially fragile. Some of us are even afraid to start bringing first ideas to paper or canvas because we are worried about not being good enough. Creativity requires courage because it always includes failures. It requires the ability to be receptive to the unknown and open to new experiences without being afraid to stumble or fall along the way. As the education expert Ken Robinson said, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
  10. Why do we need creativity? 
    No other species on this planet has our ability to be creative. We are not the fastest, we can’t jump high, we can’t fly, and we can’t protect ourselves with sharp teeth or poison. Our babies are vulnerable little creatures that can’t even walk until about one year of age. And yet we became the dominant species on this planet  — for better or worse. It is our ability to continuously develop new ideas that has shaped the history of mankind more than anything else. Progress is and will be made through creativity.When you take full advantage of your creative abilities and train your creative muscle you will be able to influence change in the way that you believe is right. Learn to use this powerful tool to shape your part of the planet!

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