Most people are convinced that creativity is a divinely-inspired, unpredictable and bestowed quality present in only a lucky few: "The creative people."
As if someone just was born with that gift or not.
However, how can we measure such a complex thing as human creativity? Is a creative person just born, or can they work on their problem-solving skills if they set their heart into and get more creative in time? What’s the relationship between creativity and intelligence, if there’s any?
There are a lot of popular myths about business creative thinking, yet none of them have in fact much scientific evidence to back them up. And giving a proper definition of creativity is no easy task either.
Nevertheless, a new study based on the latest research—"The Myths of Creativity," by David Burkus—helps demystify what's truly behind the forces and processes that drive innovation and the creative process in people.
Burkus' scientific research supports what we have always believed—that with the proper training—anyone with a common-sense mindset grounded in reality can deliver divergent thinking and thus, bring a new idea, project, or process to their community.
The first step to explore your creative capacities is to avoid limiting your own thinking about the concept of creativity. That means not following these five long-standing myths about creative thinking and innovation:
1. The Eureka Myth
New and revolutionary ideas sometimes seem to appear as a flash of insight, and apparently out of nothing. But scientific research about creativity shows that such insights are actually the culminating result of prior hard work on a problem.
This thinking is then given time to incubate in the subconscious mind as we connect several threads before the useful ideas pop out as new eureka-like innovations.
It is sometimes said that the conscious mind can’t have access to the most brilliant or groundbreaking ideas ever. And it is also said that if we’re under a lot of pressure or stress, our creative capacity is blocked. That last part is actually true, but not the magical a-ha moment about how we devise a new idea.
2. The Breed Myth
Many people still firmly believe creativity is a trait inherent in one’s heritage or genes and that it can’t be changed or expanded due to the environment’s influence.
In fact, the recent scientific evidence on the subject supports just the opposite. There is no such thing as a creative breed.
People who build up confidence in themselves and are willing to work the hardest on a problem are the ones most likely to come up with a creative solution, and effective ways to sort out challenges.
3. The Originality Myth
There's a long-standing myth about intellectual property—the idea that a creative idea is proprietary to the person who thought of it. But, on the contrary, history and empirical research show more and more evidence that new ideas are actually combinations of older ideas and sharing those ideas is what helps generate more innovation.
4. The Expert Myth
Many companies rely on a technical expert or why not a whole team of experts to generate a stream of creative ideas. Harder problems call for even more knowledgeable experts as time goes by and fields get more specific.
Instead, research suggests that a particularly tough problem often requires the fresh perspective of an outsider or someone not limited by the knowledge of why something can’t be done.
Because creative problem-solving is all about finding ways so things can actually be done.
5. The Brainstorming Myth
Many consultants today preach the famous concept of brainstorming (or spontaneous group discussions) to explore every possible approach, no matter how far-out it may seem, with the intention of yielding creative breakthroughs.
Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence that just "throwing ideas around" consistently produces innovative breakthroughs or what we consider a creative solution.
But, you may be wondering at this point, if these are indeed the most popular myths of business creativity, what then are the true components of creativity?
Some may say there’s a close relationship between mood disorders / mental illness and a high problem-solving ability. As it was the case of famous geniuses.
But, according to Teresa Amabile, director of research at Harvard, creativity is really driven by four separate components that make up a process when put together.
And the good news is, all processes can be learned, trained and improved. There’s no magic or divine quality to them.
But, which are these four components of true creativity?
1. A domain expertise:
Having specific knowledge about a field will have you thinking about new problems, and thus, you will arrive at new ways of solving them. The domain expertise can take the form of technical skills, talent or theoretical knowledge. Teresa calls them domain-relevant knowledge.
Luckily, all of those ingredients can be refined and improved.
2. A defined creativity methodology:
Teresa calls this method also "creativity-relevant" processes. These ways of thinking can be learned and trained. You may have realized that at certain times of the day you are more creative. If you don’t set aside time to seriously work on your problems, real creativity cannot happen.
And there are specific activities to be done instead of brainstorming waiting for the best solutions to appear.
3. People willing to engage:
There’s nothing like an intrinsic reward for the brain. Intrinsic motivation and passion are mandatory to ignite the creative spark in a person. If you’re not interested in a field, it’s unlikely that you come up with a brilliant idea.
4. Company’s acceptance of new ideas:
Creativity and validation go hand in hand. Creative thinking involves not only the ability to provide new angles to problems but also, a whole community, accepting it. In this case, a company has to find value in what the person is offering as a new idea.
Where these four components overlap is where real creativity takes place. So, if you believe that your startup's success highly depends on your company being more creative and innovative than your competitors, don't just blindly follow the historic myths about divergent thinking like most people do.
Instead, you should spend the proper time needed to understand and nurture the above components of human creativity in your environment, and according to your actual possibilities.
And after reading this, you can ask yourself this powerful question:
How are you pursuing creativity and innovation in your business? Do you have enough time slots in your schedule to get creative enough in a relaxed environment?
Or do you have so much on your plate that it’s taking a toll on your creativity? Are you a victim of multitasking or do you always have to leave your desk when you were just starting to get in a state of flow?
All of the above are killing your creativity. And we don’t want that for you.
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