Dr Rajiv Desai

An Educational Blog

CREATIVITY

 

CREATIVITY:

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Have a look at a picture below. What do you think?

A non-creative brain sees only a hodgepodge of disconnected shapes, but a creative brain can go beyond common sense and find the connecting concept that makes sense of the shapes. The picture is of a dog drinking from a stream, with its head in the middle of the picture facing down to the water and its tail off to the right.

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The picture above shows how your brain can even create things that don’t exist. If you can see the white triangle – the one with its apex pointing up – it’s because your brain has created that triangle to unify what is otherwise simply a collection of angles and Pac-Man shapes. There is, in fact, no white triangle there.

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If you measure these two tables with a ruler, you will see that they are of the same size. To the brain, however, they appear different. The picture is an example of visual creativity.

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Had there been no creativity in human brains, we will be still living in Stone Age even today. The journey of humans from Stone Age to Nanotechnology is possible only because of a unique trait, namely creativity. To survive, people need to adapt to changing circumstances. To prosper, people need to solve problems, generate new insights, and create new products and services. Put differently, critical to both survival and prosperity is creativity—the creation of something new and unusual meant to improve one’s effective functioning.  We all know that even bacteria do create novel enzymes to destroy antibiotics for its survival. Whether it is Darwin or whether it is Newton, whether it is Einstein or whether it is Edison, whether it is Shakespeare or whether it is Picasso, whether it is Mozart or whether it is Beethoven; it is the creativity in their brain that revolutionized the world. The constant need for humans to adapt themselves to changing social and physical environments requires inventiveness. The dissonance between external reality and ourselves becomes manifest in creativity, such that the most creative of us may also be the most “at odds with themselves and the world”. Humans are constituted so that they are never completely satisfied and always able to imagine something better. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but dissatisfaction is its father.  We humans are a creative species. When we compare what we do & make with what other species do & make, it is self-evident that we are the most creative species. But what has the role of creativity been over the course of our evolution? Is it just a by-product, an emergent property, of more fundamental cognitive processes, such as those involving problem-solving ability, memory, language, attention, and so on? Or is creativity a distinct and identifiable cognitive process of its own, which varies from individual-to-individual?

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There are more than 60 definitions of creativity with no single authoritative and consensus on its definition, or operational measure. A straightforward meaning of creativity view is generating something novel, original, and unexpected. Creativity is some of the many intellectual constructs that has been defined in as many different ways as the number of researchers investigating them. If someone runs out of fuel on the highway, the person must think of a way to get to his/her destination, and this requires creativity even if it is in its simplest form.

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Creative or innovative thinking is the kind of thinking that leads to new insights, novel approaches, fresh perspectives, and whole new ways of understanding & conceiving of things. The products of creative thought include some obvious things like music, poetry, dance, dramatic literature, inventions, and technical innovations. But there are some not so obvious examples as well, such as ways of putting a question that expand the horizons of possible solutions, or ways of conceiving of relationships that challenge presuppositions and lead one to see the world in imaginative and different ways. Creativity is that aspect of intelligence characterized by originality of thought and problem solving. Creativity involves divergent thinking, that is, thoughts directed widely towards a number of varied solutions.

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A simple definition is that creativity is the ability to imagine or invent something new. As we will see below, creativity is not the ability to create something out of nothing, but the ability to generate new ideas by combining, changing, or reapplying existing ideas. Some creative ideas are astonishing and brilliant, while others are just simple, good, practical ideas that no one seems to have thought of yet. Believe it or not, everyone has substantial creative ability. Just look at how creative children are. In adults, creativity has too often been suppressed through education, but it is still there and can be reawakened. Often all that’s needed to be creative is to make a commitment to creativity and to take the time for it.

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Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new (a product, a solution, a work of art, a novel, a joke, etc.) that has some kind of value. What counts as “new” may be in reference to the individual creator, or to the society or domain within which the novelty occurs. Novelty requires originality and newness. There must be something fresh to the idea. What counts as “valuable” is similarly defined in a variety of ways. The novelty must be coupled with appropriateness for something to be considered creative. All who study creativity agree that for something to be creative, it is not enough for it to be novel: it must have value, or be appropriate to the cognitive demands of the situation. Creative refers to novel products of value, as in “the airplane was a creative invention.” “Creative” also refers to the person who produces the work, as in, Picasso was creative. Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others. Creativity and creative acts are studied across several disciplines – psychology, cognitive science, education, philosophy (particularly philosophy of science), technology, theology, sociology, linguistics, business studies, and economics. As a result, there are a multitude of definitions and approaches. The product of “creativity” has typically been defined in one of two ways: either as something historically new (and relatively rare), such as scientific discoveries or great works of art; or as producing something new in a personal sense – an apparent innovation for the creator, regardless of whether others have made similar innovations, or whether others value the particular act of creation. It is generally thought that “creativity” in Western culture was originally seen as a matter of divine inspiration. The traditional Western view of creativity can be contrasted with the traditional Eastern view. For Hindus, Confucianists, Taoists and Buddhists, creation was at most a kind of discovery and the idea of creation “from nothing” had no place in these philosophies and religions.

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Creativity is an ability to produce something new through imaginative skill, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic objects or form. The term generally refers to a richness of ideas and originality of thinking. Psychological studies of highly creative people have shown that many have a strong interest in apparent disorder, contradiction, and imbalance, which seem to be perceived as challenges. Such individuals may possess an exceptionally deep, broad, and flexible awareness of themselves. Creativity is the ability to see something in a new way, to see and solve problems no one else may know exists, and to engage in mental and physical experiences that are new, unique, or different. Creativity is a critical aspect of a person’s life, starting from inside the womb onward through adulthood. 

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Creativity is possible in all areas of human activity, including the arts, sciences, at work, at play and in all other areas of daily life. All people have creative abilities and we all have them differently. When individuals find their creative strengths, it can have an enormous impact on self-esteem and on overall achievement. Creativity is not simply a matter of letting go. Serious creative achievement relies on knowledge, control of materials and command of ideas. Creative education involves a balance between teaching knowledge and skills, and encouraging innovation. In these ways, creative development is directly related to cultural education.

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Many people associate creativity primarily with the Arts. Music, drama, art, dance, literature, and the rest, are often called the creative arts. The creative arts are often contrasted with the sciences, which tend to be thought of as uncreative by so called creative artists. But creativity is not unique to the arts. It is equally fundamental to advances in the sciences, in mathematics, technology, in politics, business and in all areas of everyday life.

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Our starting point is to recognize four characteristics of creative processes. First, they always involve thinking or behaving imaginatively. Second, overall this imaginative activity is purposeful: that is, it is directed to achieving an objective. Third, these processes must generate something original. Fourth, the outcome must be of value in relation to the objective. So creativity can also be defined as: Imaginative activity fashioned so as to produce outcomes that are both original and of value. My view is that creativity is possible in all areas of human activity and that everyone has creative capacities.  

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If you keep on churning dozens of ideas which have little or no practical value, few will consider this a highly creative effort. Similarly, potentially valuable ideas that live and die in your brain without ever being converted into a practical application will not pass the test of the definition used herein.

Here are some examples of creative breakthroughs:

1) Johannes Gutenberg built upon the idea of metal blocks with letters, combined existing technologies, and sparked one of the greatest revolutions in the history of mankind, the printing press.

2) Steve Wozniak combined his knowledge of electronics with a vision of a computer displaying images on a TV screen, and working with a typewriter-like keyboard. Those ideas opened a path towards a personal computer for the masses.

3)Tim Berners-Lee inspired by the idea of hypertext and in need of an efficient communication tool for large teams came up with a protocol framework for the future world wide web. He converted multiple ideas and hours of design and programming into a foundation of the greatest communication breakthrough since Gutenberg.

If you look at Gutenberg’s, Steve Wozniak’s or Tim Berners-Lee’s breakthrough ideas, you may think: “That’s simple. I could have invented it”. The greatest power of an invention is often in its simplicity. Creative people have a great deal of energy; an urge to look at things differently but they also have a combination of playfulness and discipline.  The best creative people alternate between imagination and fantasy on one end, and rooted sense of reality at the other.

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There are many aspects to creativity, but one definition would include the ability to take existing objects and combine them in different ways for new purposes. For example, Gutenberg took the wine press and the die/punch and produced a printing press. Thus, a simple definition of creativity is the action of combining previously uncombined elements. From art, music and invention to household chores, this is part of the nature of being creative. Another way of looking at creativity is as playing with the way things are interrelated. Creativity is the ability to generate novel and useful ideas and solutions to everyday problems and challenges. Creativity involves the translation of our unique gifts, talents and vision into an external reality that is new and useful. We must keep in mind that creativity takes place unavoidably inside our own personal, social, and cultural boundaries. The more we define our creativity by identifying with specific sets of values, meanings, beliefs and symbols, the more our creativity will be focused and limited; the more we define our creativity by focusing on how values, meanings, beliefs and symbols are formed, the greater the chance that our creativity will become less restricted.

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Creative thoughts may have detractors. Think of Copernicus’ theory that the sun, not the Earth, was the center of the universe. Galileo was convicted of heresy for believing in this radical theory and espousing that the Earth was indeed round and turned on an axis. Indeed, defensiveness against others’ viewpoints, or a lack of openness, crushes creativity. So it’s important to teach teens to respect and learn from others, and imagine someone else’s point of view. This is the seed of creative collaboration; it broadens us as individuals and creates an environment that fosters tolerance and appreciation of differences.   

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What is ordinary everyday creativity?

When I was in school, creativity was always related to art, and art to painting and sculpture. If you weren’t an artist, forget it, you weren’t creative. Creativity not just a mysterious talent owned by artists, photographers, musicians and actors. Every day in every part of our lives it’s there. We just need to change our attitude and look for the possibilities. Creativity isn’t something beyond our normal lives. It isn’t something that is pulled out when we need an extraordinary act. Creativity is available and used in our everyday lives. Creativity is not limited to the masterpiece work of art but can be found in everyday tasks such as cooking or gardening. A cook who changes a recipe or even makes one up using ingredients he or she has on hand is using the creative process to create novel taste sensations. A gardener who picks out colors and a pattern for a flower garden also is tapping into his or her creative potential. Every day, we use language to speak sentences that have never been spoken before. We express thoughts that have never been expressed. All of this is so deeply ingrained that we don’t notice how creative it is. We find creativity as parents when we find new ways to effectively raise our children. When we are at work, we find new ways to get our assignments done. Creativity is there at every moment and within the grasp of every person.    

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At around about the age of five, we are using about 80% of our creative potential. We invent daily – no matter whether our inventions have been invented before, the fact is that we are innovating at a remarkable rate. The scary coda to this story is that by the age of twelve, our creative output has declined to about 2% of our potential, and it generally stays there for the rest of our lives. And then we start to learn the price of living in the modern world – which is conformity. To live with other people, you must follow their rules and values, which seem to be more about what you cannot do than what you can do. We are straight-jacketed and smart-stepped into doing what others do and not reinventing our worlds every day. When someone is being creative, they are also rather unpredictable, which can make living with them an uncertain and perhaps threatening experience. So we are taught to be polite and be nice to people, including not scaring them with our creative thoughts,

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The emotional satisfaction does come from creativity.  Music, fine arts, dance, drama, writing, science and more, all involve creation of something tangible or intangible. From young age to old age, we find deep satisfaction in creation. Why do we like to color, to draw, to play legos when young and later on to create new products, new companies, and new music?  We are a highly intelligent species and our highest form of expression brings satisfaction to the self ! Some would call this emotional, some would call it intuition, and some would call it spiritual.

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Convergent and divergent thinking:

Convergent thinking is the intellectual ability to logically evaluate, critique and choose the best idea from a selection of ideas. Convergent thinking is measured by IQ tests, and it involves solving well-defined, rational problems that have one correct answer.

Divergent thinking is the intellectual ability to think of many original, diverse, and elaborate ideas. Divergent thinking leads to no agreed-upon solution but number of varied solutions. It involves fluency, or the ability to generate a great quantity of ideas; flexibility, or the ability to switch from one perspective to another; and originality in picking unusual associations of ideas. These are the dimensions of thinking that most creativity tests measure and that most workshops try to enhance.  

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Both abilities are required for creative output. Children with very high IQs do well in life, but after a certain point IQ do not seem to be correlated any longer with superior performance in real life. Some studies suggest that the cutoff point is around 120; it might be difficult to do creative work with a lower IQ, but an IQ beyond 120 does not necessarily imply higher creativity. So you do need convergent thinking to enhance divergent thinking but beyond a point, high level convergent thinking does not lead to divergent thinking. Researchers drew a sharper contrast between convergent and divergent thinking, equating the first with executive aspects of cognition and the second with associationistic aspects; and argued that divergent thinking reflects an associative process in which obvious, accessible ideas cue connected ideas, which in turn cue connected ideas, and so on. Creative ideas occur when the associative spread reaches distal concepts that are remotely related to the original concept. This explanation for divergent thinking is structural rather than executive: creative people are thought to have many loosely-related concepts, so their associative processes are more likely to generate remote, distal concepts.  Logical, linear thinking is an essential life skill. It’s ‘in the box’ thinking……but in order to be creative, we need big picture thinking (that’s the ‘out of the box’ thinking). So “in the box thinking” is convergent thinking while “out of box thinking” is divergent thinking. Out of box means associating distant unrelated ideas/thoughts/concepts in unpredictable way to create a novel idea that works. When I proposed my theory of “Duality of Existence”, it was out of box and media criticized it as an essay that will not work. Most of the scientists believe that “Duality of Existence” is a fact and not fiction as portrayed by media.

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“Divergent thinking” tests of “creativity” were designed without any substantial validation. They differ from “convergent” tests of “intelligence” in that they are open ended and do not have right or wrong answers. There are also problems in validating creativity because it is very difficult to define what terms such as “gifted” and “genius” mean. There is an apparent contradiction between the predictability of objective tests and the unpredictability of creativity. The issue of creativity seems to be a complex one, because it involves a number of conditions and definitions. It seems to fit Pasteur’s definition that “chance favors the prepared mind”, i.e. creativity suggests something novel and rare, but at the same time  involves some sort of preparation (learning, to achieve some sort of  value relative to what is already known) in order to achieve “raw materials” for an original contribution. Its outcome must be unexpected. Creativity therefore appears to be something rare and unusual (take for example artistic creativity, not everyone possesses this skill), and cannot be equated with intelligence. It would seem that intelligence involves a right-wrong answer, because it examines something specific and easily measurable.

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Associative Ability:

Creativity requires that a person come up with unique ideas and out-of-the-box thinking. This person may have good associative powers of thinking that allow him to create connections between otherwise disparate things. He synthesizes information in a different way. That is a suggestive, intuitive associative mode that reveals remote or subtle connections between items that are correlated but not necessarily causally related. The end result could take any number of forms: a scientific hypothesis, a piece of art, a musical composition or an unusual application of a theory, helping to advance how we understand the world.

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A study was conducted on roughly 500 innovators compared to roughly 5,000 executives, which led researchers to identify the most important skill that distinguish innovators from typical executives. The innovators count on a cognitive skill that we call ‘associational thinking’ or simply ‘associating.’ Associating happens as the brain tries to synthesize and make sense of novel inputs. It helps innovators discover new directions by making connections across seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas. Innovative breakthroughs often happen at the intersection of diverse disciplines and fields. Author Frans Johanssen described this phenomenon as ‘the Medici effect,’ referring to the creative explosion in Florence when the Medici family brought together creators from a wide range of disciplines – sculptors, scientist, poets, philosophers, painters, and architects. As these individuals connected, they created new ideas at the intersection of their respective fields, thereby spawning the renaissance, one of the most innovative eras in history. So diversity breeds creativity. Put simply, innovative thinkers connect fields, problems, or ideas that others find unrelated. So associative ability means to connect remote unrelated ideas in a brain of one individual; or to connect brains of specialists from diverse fields; in order to create novel ingenious idea.

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Researchers assert that the creative process requires a thought shift from associative thinking to cause and effect thinking. Associative thinking might reveal some correlation or relationship between two things, but this correlation might not provide a solution and might not be appropriate. It is reasonable that the cognitive process for generating creative ideas does not stem from the unconscious nor follows a rigid procedure, but instead it transforms and evolves a collection of old ideas into new ones. This transformation and evolution may occur through a cognitive shift.  

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Critical thinking and creative thinking:

Critical thinking is the process we use to assess and judge the assumption underlying our own and others ideas and efforts. Critical thinking is analytical, judgmental and selective. When you are thinking critically, you are making choices. Critical thinking, in general, refers to higher-order thinking that questions assumptions. It is a way of deciding whether a claim is true, false, or sometimes true and sometimes false, or partly true and partly false. Critical thinking would be the convergent process where we narrow down which of those new ideas will work best given realistic constraints and resources.

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Critical thinkers routinely apply intellectual standards to the elements of critical reasoning as they develop the traits of critical mind. These essential intellectual standards are:

clarity precision
accuracy significance
relevance completeness
logicalness fairness
breadth depth

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These intellectual standards must be applied to the elements of critical thought. These elements of critical thought are:

purposes inferences
questions concepts
points of view implications
information assumptions

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These elements of critical thoughts have to develop the traits of a critical mind. These traits of critical mind are:

Intellectual humility Intellectual perseverance
Intellectual autonomy Confidence in reason
Intellectual integrity Intellectual empathy
Intellectual courage Fair-mindedness

These traits of critical mind help develop a critical mind.

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Creative thinking is the process we use to develop ideas that are novel, unique, useful and worthy of further elaboration. Creative thinking involves calling into question the assumptions underlying our customary, habitual ways of thinking & acting and then being ready to think and act differently on the basis of the critical questioning. Creative Thinking is generative, nonjudgmental and expansive. When you are thinking creatively, you are generating lists of new ideas. In many ways, creative thinking can be considered divergent thinking. It is the process by which we generate new ideas, imagine possibilities, and find relationships among seemingly unrelated concepts.

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In trying to solve a problem, it is undeniable that both critical thinking and creative thinking are necessary and complementary. In productive problem solving, you creatively generate ideas and critically evaluate ideas. Usually, creative generation is the most exciting part of this process. But critical evaluation is more important, because if creative ideas are immediately converted into action (without being wisely evaluated) the result can be unwise action. It is no surprise that research has established a positive correlation between critical thinking and creativity (between .25 and .30) and the combination of critical thinking and creative thinking is considered “good thinking.”

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In many curriculum documents, a distinction is made between ‘critical’ and ‘creative’ thinking. Thus, teachers are encouraged or required to develop their students’ “critical and creative thinking” as if these are two separate outcomes. Much of the thinking done in formal education emphasizes the skills of analysis–teaching students how to understand claims, follow or create a logical argument, figure out the answer, eliminate the incorrect paths and focus on the correct one. However, there is another kind of thinking, one that focuses on exploring ideas, generating possibilities, looking for many right answers rather than just one. Both of these kinds of thinking are vital to a successful working life, yet the latter one tends to be ignored until after college. We might differentiate these two kinds of thinking like this:

Critical Thinking Creative Thinking
analytic generative
convergent divergent
vertical lateral
probability possibility
judgment suspended judgment
focused diffuse
objective subjective
answer an answer
left brain right brain
verbal visual
linear associative
reasoning richness, novelty
yes but yes and

In an activity like problem solving, both kinds of thinking are important to us. First, we must analyze the problem; then we must generate possible solutions; next we must choose and implement the best solution; and finally, we must evaluate the effectiveness of the solution. As you can see, this process reveals an alternation between the two kinds of thinking, critical and creative. In practice, both kinds of thinking operate together much of the time and are not really independent of each other.

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Creativity might be divided into cognitive and artistic creativity. Artistic creativity consists in the creation of artwork and expressing one’s ideas and emotions through various forms of art. Critical thinking as such is not opposed to artistic creativity, but the enhancement of critical thinking skills obviously might not improve one’s artistic creativity. However, critical thinking is a necessary condition for cognitive creativity. Cognitive creativity is a matter of coming up with solutions to practical or theoretical problems. This includes, for example, creating a new scientific theory, or launching a new commercial product.

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COGNITIVE CREATIVITY ARTISTIC CREATIVITY
Enunciate  new scientific theory or launchnew commercial product Create a painting or compose new music or write a play or script
Convergent + divergent thinking Divergent thinking
Critical thinking must, no fantasizing  Critical thinking not mandatory, fantasizing
Real creativity Virtual creativity
Inventions & innovation in real world Inventions & innovations in virtual world
No association with mental illness Mental illness more prevalent in artists
Changes lives of people No change in lives of people
Both genes and environment involved Environment prevail over genes
 Associated with humility Associated with megalomania
Utilized by everybody-e.g. telephone, television, car etc Utilized by some-e.g. poem, drama, painting etc
Above average IQ must Average IQ will do
Reduced in elderly Unaffected by age

 

 Note: Cognitive creativity and artistic creativity are not mutually exclusive. A cognitive creative scientist can compose very good music or painting but a legendary painter cannot propose a scientific theory, the obvious reason is lack of critical thinking in artists.

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Are you a logical person or a creative person when faced with a problem?

Logical response Creative response
What’s the right solution? How many solutions can I come up with?
This is a serious problem. It’s going to be hard to solve. This is a serious problem but it will be an interesting challenge.
I can’t make any mistakes. Mistakes are opportunities to begin again creatively.
I’m afraid of asking dumb questions. “Dumb” questions may lead to smart solutions.
I need “expert” advice. I think I’ll discuss this with my colleagues as well as the experts.
That’s a silly idea. Forget it. This idea seems silly but let’s explores it further.
I’ve got to solve this problem right now. I think I’ll set this aside for a day or two. Sometimes I gain a new insight when I let things “percolate.”
I can’t tell my idea to Marilyn. She’ll think it’s dumb. Marilyn always has an interesting perspective; I wonder what she’ll say about this idea.
If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s working now but I bet I can make it work better.

If you usually take the more “logical” approach, you may need to expand your creative thinking skills.

Remember, the first step to being creative is to get rid of your own unwritten rules.

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Lateral thinking:

You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper. This means that trying harder in the same direction may not be as useful as changing direction. Effort in the same direction (approach) will not necessarily succeed.  Lateral Thinking is for changing concepts and perceptions. Lateral thinking means exploring multiple possibilities and approaches instead of pursuing a single approach. With logic you start out with certain ingredients just as in playing chess you start out with given pieces. But what are those pieces? In most real life situations the pieces are not given, we just assume they are there. We assume certain perceptions, certain concepts and certain boundaries. Lateral thinking is concerned not with playing with the existing pieces but with seeking to change those very pieces. Lateral thinking is concerned with the perception part of thinking. This is where we organize the external world into the pieces we can then process.

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Parallel thinking:

Parallel thinking is best understood in contrast to traditional argument or adversarial thinking. With the traditional argument or adversarial thinking, each side takes a different position and then seeks to attack the other side. Each side seeks to prove that the other side is wrong. Adversarial thinking completely lacks a constructive, creative or design element. It was intended only to discover the ‘truth’ not to build anything. With ‘parallel thinking’ both sides are thinking in parallel in the same direction. There is co-operative and co-ordinate thinking. The direction itself can be changed in order to give a full scan of the situation. But at every moment each thinker is thinking in parallel with all the other thinkers. There does not have to be agreement. Statements or thoughts which are indeed contradictory are not argued out but laid down in parallel. In the final stage, the way forward is ‘designed’ from the parallel thoughts that have been laid out.

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Both lateral thinking and parallel thinking help creative thinking. 

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Imagination:

Imagination, also called the faculty of imagining, is the ability of forming mental images, sensations and concepts, in a moment when they are not perceived through sight, hearing or other senses. Imagination is the work of the mind that helps create. Imagination helps provide meaning to experience and understanding to knowledge; it is a fundamental facility through which people make sense of the world, and it also plays a key role in the learning process. It is accepted as the innate ability and process of inventing partial or complete personal realms within the mind from elements derived from sense perceptions of the shared world. Imagination can also be expressed through stories such as fairy tales or fantasies. Most famous inventions or entertainment products were created from the inspiration of someone’s imagination. Imagination in this sense, not being limited to the acquisition of exact knowledge by the requirements of practical necessity, is up to a certain point, free from objective restraints. The ability to imagine one’s self in another person’s place is very important to social relations and understanding. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination … is more important than knowledge”. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. Einstein imagined what it would be like to ride a light beam and from thenceforth sprung his insight and understanding of the nature of light and time. This is not to suggest that Einstein didn’t also have a deep understanding of quantum physics and mathematics (measures of his IQ) but his breakthroughs started with his creative imagination. Progress in scientific research is due largely to provisional explanations which are constructed by imagination, but such hypotheses must be framed in relation to previously ascertained facts and in accordance with the principles of the particular science. Imagination is an experimental partition of the mind used to create theories and ideas based on functions. Psychologists have studied imaginative thought, not only in its exotic form of creativity and artistic expression but also in its mundane form of everyday imagination.  

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Imagination allows us to escape our current time, place, or perspective in favor of an alternative context, whether that may be fanciful or mundane. So imagination is a mechanism for specifying and maintaining a context that differs from our more immediate and stimulus-driven experiences or contexts. According to Buckner & Carroll, this kind of “self-projection” from one context to another is the essential function that underpins the involvement of the prefrontal & medial temporal lobe (MTL) circuit in a variety of tasks, including those requiring retrieval from long-term memory, planning, theory of mind, and possibly even navigation. This remarkable similarity across tasks is illustrated in the picture below.

Researchers emphasize the role of the medial temporal lobe (MTL) of brain in imagination.

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Do creative ideas come out of nothing?

For both scientists and artists, ‘de novo’ creation is a myth: all modern work is built on the insights and discoveries of previous generations. While there are occasionally quantum leaps, with radically new concepts and approaches appearing apparently out of the blue, close analysis always reveals important underpinnings from the past. This of course brings to mind Isaac Newton’s famous phrase that “If I have seen further, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

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In this experimental study, humans were pitted against computers to see who could come up with the best ideas for advertisements. The humans were non-advertising professionals, given a brief and asked to come up with creative ideas for adverts. The computers were programmed with an algorithm for devising advertising ideas and given the same briefs. The research panel found that the computer ads to be consistently more original and creative than those devised by the human group. Note that the human group was untrained, with no previous experience of creating adverts. The computers, on the other hand, were programmed using formulas derived from successful adverts. So the computers had an unfair advantage. When the researchers repeated the experiment and taught the formulas to the human group, they were able to beat the computers. The researchers have disproved the popular idea that “the most original ideas are born of utter freedom, a shifting of paradigms, a circling of the square, a streaming of consciousness or a squelching of the internal editor”.

Creative ideas never come out of nothing.

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Corollary to above experiment is that can computer exhibit creativity like humans?

The advertising algorithms show it’s possible to program a computer to generate whacky ideas – but it took a human panel to judge their effectiveness. A machine can write poetry or music – but only humans can decide whether the finished work is any good. It sounds counterintuitive, but perhaps the human creative advantage comes not from our ability to generate unusual ideas, but to use our critical faculty to evaluate them. This is why a computer can beat a Grand Master at chess, but it will never compose music to rival Mozart. Computers are very smart, but they have no imagination.

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Artificial creativity:

Artificial Creativity (or computational creativity) is a branch of Artificial Intelligence that deals with the development and exploration of systems that exhibit creative behavior. This includes systems capable of such things as scientific invention, visual artistry, music composition and story generation. One of the ultimate goals of artificial creativity research is to replicate creativity as it appears in humans. A strong emphasis has therefore been on creating systems which mimic our abilities and specifically those of artists, as creativity is easily identified in the arts. This includes abilities such as music composition, painting and storytelling. A fundamental problem in implementing creative system is that not only do we lack understanding of our own creative mechanisms, but the basics of computer programs seem to oppose the idea of achieving unbound originality. To properly explain this problem, how programming seems to oppose creativity, we must understand what computer programs are: instructions. A set of steps the computer executes. Typically, when we create computer programs we specify a certain problem and in turn devise a set of instructions that addresses this problem. Instructions are what define a programs behavior and outcome. We impose restrictions — a confined set of instructions out of all the possibilities in the world. This is necessary for the system to do anything at all. For example: A goal limits the objectives of a system and thereby helps organize how the system will behave. The basics of programming require explicit designing of mechanisms that produce certain outcomes. By giving these explicit instructions, the potential of a program acting in novel ways is decreased, since clearly it means that it’s known beforehand how the system will behave. The instructions that define programs (and make them work) are in turn the exact reason making it difficult to produce surprising, novel and interesting ideas. This problem is being slowly overcome with the use of neural networks, genetic algorithms and other complex systems and complex adaptive systems. Creativity involves the unpredictable. Some researchers believe that computer programs can be taught to be creative by programming knowledge, resources, and similarities between objects and ideas to create novel approaches and things. This requires creating a large database from which the technology will work. This database will have to include basic facts about objects for instance, and from these basic facts, programs will be coded to recognize similarities between the objects. Through recognizing these ideas, the programs will be combine objects in order to develop something novel and appropriate.  

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Invention:

An invention is a better or more effective composition, device, or process. An invention may be derived from a pre-existing model or idea, or it could be independently conceived in which case it may be a radical breakthrough. Invention is a creative process. An open and curious mind allows an inventor to see beyond what is known. Seeing a new possibility, a new connection or relationship can spark an invention. Inventive thinking frequently involves combining concepts or elements from different realms that would not normally be put together. Sometimes inventors disregard the boundaries between distinctly separate territories or fields. Ways of thinking, materials, processes or tools from one realm are used as no one else has imagined in a different realm. Play can lead to invention. Childhood curiosity, experimentation, and imagination can develop one’s play instinct—an inner need according to Carl Jung. Inventors feel the need to play with things that interest them, and to explore, and this internal drive brings about novel creations. Insight is also a vital element of invention. It may begin with questions, doubt or a hunch. It may begin by recognizing that something unusual or accidental may be useful or that it could open a new avenue for exploration. Invention is often an exploratory process, with an uncertain or unknown outcome. There are failures as well as successes. Inspiration can start the process, but no matter how complete the initial idea, inventions typically have to be developed. Inventors believe in their ideas and they do not give up in the face of one or many failures. Inventors are often famous for their confidence, their perseverance and their passion. Inventors may, for example, try to improve something by making it more effective, healthier, faster, more efficient, easier to use, serve more purposes, longer lasting, cheaper, more ecologically friendly, or aesthetically different, e.g., lighter weight, more ergonomic, structurally different, with new light or color properties, etc. Or an entirely new invention may be created such as the Internet, email, the telephone or electric light. Necessity may be the mother of invention, invention may be its own reward, or invention can create necessity. Nobody needed a phonograph before Edison invented it, the need for it developed afterward. Likewise, few ever imagined need of the telephone or the airplane prior to their invention, but many people cannot live without these inventions now. The idea for an invention may be developed on paper or on a computer, by writing or drawing, by trial and error, by making models, by experimenting, by testing and/or by making the invention in its whole form. The creation of an invention and its use can be affected by practical considerations. Visionary inventors commonly collaborate with technical experts, manufacturers, investors and/or business people to turn an invention from idea into reality, and possibly even to turn invention into innovation. An invention can serve many purposes, these purposes might differ significantly and they may change over time. An invention or a further developed version of it may serve purposes never envisioned by its original inventor(s) or even by others living at the time of its original invention.

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Innovation:

Innovation generally refers to the creation of better or more effective products, processes, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society. Innovation differs from renovation in that innovation generally signifies a substantial positive change compared to incremental changes. Due to its widespread effect, innovation is an important topic in the study of economics, business, entrepreneurship, design, technology, sociology, and engineering. In society, innovation aids in comfort, convenience, and efficiency in everyday life. Innovations that has changed everyday quality of life include: the innovations to the light bulb from incandescent to compact fluorescent and LEDs which offer longer-lasting, less energy-intensive, brighter technology; adoption of modems to cellular phones, paving the way to smart phones which meets anyone’s internet needs at any time or place; cathode-ray tube to flat-screen LCD televisions and others. Research and development (R&D) help spur on patents and other scientific innovations that lead to productive growth in such areas as industry, medicine, engineering, and government. Yet, innovations can be developed by less formal on-the-job modifications of practice, through exchange and combination of professional experience and by many other routes. The more radical and revolutionary innovations tend to emerge from R&D, while more incremental innovations may emerge from practice – but there are many exceptions to each of these trends. Some researchers have described two styles of creative people, functioning primarily as adaptors who focus on improving an existing situation, and innovators who develop and advocate new solutions.   

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Creativity is the ability to generate ideas while Innovation is about making ideas real and usable. You don’t get to be more innovative, until you make yourself more creative first. Creativity is the act of conceiving or imagining something original. Innovation on the other hand is implementation of something new or novel. It can be the implementation of a novel idea too. Creativity is a term that is often used in literature. Innovation is the term often used in management. Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.  Creativity is dreaming up a new invention and innovation is making it real in one’s own unique way. When you bring something new into existence you can say you created it. You cannot say you innovated it. And again when you improve something that already exists you cannot say you created it but you can say you innovated it. An important distinction is normally made between invention and innovation. Invention is the first occurrence of an idea for a new product or process, while innovation is the first attempt to carry it out into practice. It is interesting to note that every invention in the scientific world is the result of innovation. Thomas Alva Edison was innovative to make many scientific inventions. Every innovation on the other hand is not an invention. Innovation is giving a practically improved shape to creativity. Innovation is about making creativity real. Henry Ford created the assembly line for car production. The Japanese perfected this concept by introducing their own unique innovations/ changes/ improvements. Lots of people are creative but they are not innovating enough to make their creations practical. Innovation makes creativity practical and efficient. Most inventors fail because they are not innovative enough. Most painters are creative but when they introduce innovation in their creation/art they become artists. Without creativity there is no product/concept that needs implementation and once something new is thought up it needs innovation. Research and development (R&D) is about innovation. Sometimes innovation can lead to a realization of the creation being impractical and so this creative idea may be abandoned and a new creative idea may be born, thus innovation may lead to creativity. Innovation is giving a new direction to an existing idea.

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Creativity = Ideas

but

Innovation = Ideas + Action

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Creativity = Novelty

but

Innovation = Novelty + Value

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Global Innovation Index

This international innovation index is part of a large research study that looks at both the business outcomes of innovation and government’s ability to encourage and support innovation through public policy. The latest index was published in March 2009. To rank the countries, the study measured both innovation inputs and outputs. Innovation inputs included government and fiscal policy, education policy and the innovation environment. Outputs included patents, technology transfer, and other R&D results; business performance, such as labor productivity and total shareholder returns; and the impact of innovation on business migration and economic growth. The following is a list of the twenty largest countries (as measured by GDP) by the International Innovation Index.

Rank

Country

Overall

1 South Korea 2.26
2 United States 1.80
3 Japan 1.79
4 Sweden 1.64
5 Netherlands 1.55
6 Canada 1.42
7 United Kingdom 1.42
8 Germany 1.12
9 France 1.12
10 Australia 1.02
11 Spain 0.93
12 Belgium 0.86
13 China 0.73
14 Italy 0.21
15 India 0.06
16 Russia -0.09
17 Mexico -0.16
18 Turkey -0.21
19 Indonesia -0.57
20 Brazil  -0.59

   When creative idea is implemented in action, it becomes innovation. Therefore global innovation index can be considered as a surrogate marker for creativity. Looking at the table above, the largest democracy India has indeed very low global innovative index suggesting environment not conducive for creativity. No wonder, when I started publishing novel ideas on my website, neither Indian leaders nor Indian bureaucrats nor Indian media showed any appreciation of creative work. People who do not appreciate creativity are unlikely to be creative themselves.

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Creativity quotient (CQ):

All individuals with healthy brains have some degree of creative potential, but individuals vary in how much novelty they in fact produce. Psychometric measures of creativity are based on the hypothesis that the ability to create is general across domains of activity (art, business, music, technology, etc.) and stable over time. This view implies that a person whose creativity is above average in one domain can be expected to be above average in other domains also. Standard intelligence tests measure convergent thinking, which is the ability to come up with a single correct answer. However, creativity involves divergent thinking, which is the ability to come up with new and unusual answers. Several attempts have been made to develop a creativity quotient of an individual similar to the intelligence quotient (IQ), however these have been unsuccessful. The Creativity Achievement Questionnaire, a self-report test that measures creative achievement across 10 domains, was described in 2005 and shown to be reliable and valid when compared to other measures of creativity and to independent evaluation of creative output. Such tests, sometimes called Divergent Thinking (DT) tests have been both supported and criticized. Some researchers have taken a social-personality approach to the measurement of creativity. In these studies, personality traits such as independence of judgment, self-confidence, attraction to complexity, aesthetic orientation and risk-taking are used as measures of the creativity of individuals.  Creativity in childhood is typically assessed through paper-and-pencil measures such as the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking. These tests are designed to measure divergent thinking, such as fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration. Signification criticisms have been raised about these tests as measures of creativity. First is the general problem that there are no universally accepted definitions of creativity. Second, critics of creativity tests argue that these tests do not measure creativity per se but instead reflect the specific abilities that are assessed by the tests. Third, the scores on these tests often depend partly on speed, which is not necessarily a criterion for creativity. A final consistent concern relates to the scoring of creativity tests, which by definition are somewhat subjective. Thus, the reliability of such tests is commonly questioned.

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It is time for individuals and organizations to ask themselves—what is our CQ? Just as IQ and EQ has proven to be measures of specific capabilities, the capacity for creativity is increasingly the core to building value in these uncertain and treacherous times. And just as IQ and EQ scores can be raised significantly for anyone by teaching and training, so too can CQ be bolstered for individuals and organizations. One example is sufficient. When US Special Forces team that went into Afghanistan right after 9/11, these men realized that they need to ride horses into battle to defeat the Taliban. Dropped into a culture they knew little about, in a land of unknown and threatening terrain, with tools that were insufficient for the mission, and dependent on a group of distrustful people, the SF team did what it was trained to do—design a valid new pathway to their goal. The 12-men, multi-disciplinary team went through the ritual of innovation—they observed and empathized with the local culture, collaborated among themselves and with their partners, brainstormed to generate new options, rehearsed a few and chose the best one. In the end, that best option was to get on a horse. The team mounted up to show respect to the culture, establish their social position as warriors, and effectively transport their high tech GPS and laser sights across the mountains and desert to call in air support and achieve their goal of victory in battle. The Special Forces had a very high CQ—Creativity Quotient. Teams know how to go into unknown, changing, dangerous cultural spaces, do fast ethnography, brainstorm, collaborate, rehearse options, choose the most valid solution for the situation and execute.   

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The picture above describes creativity as the function of three elements. The Society, the Culture and the Individual Creator. The production of something new happens with the interaction of these three elements. The role of society in the model is to select and judge ideas as creative or not. The creative individual is, even from early on, more likely to go against rules and generally accepted things in society. This individual will however not be named creative if he does not manage to persuade at least some part of society that his or her art is creative. Persuasion is thus in this model an essential part of creativity. Everything created within the social norm could have been predicted, and is therefore not new – creative. However for an idea to be judged creative, it needed to be accepted by the very same social norm it went up against and persuasion therefore build in to the concept of creativity.

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Creative Culture (CC) is a term used to indicate an environment that can be established in many places, in culture, society or workplace where creative ideas within that environment are encouraged, supported, protected and nurtured for further development and growth till their true value can be understood and appreciated. If you spend time with people with no ambition you will not develop ambition. If you spend time with uncreative people you will not develop creativity. If you spend time with persons who are not motivated you will not be motivated. The people you hang around with are your main teachers. If you spend time with successful people you will be successful and you can learn motivation, creativity, problem solving and so much more from the successful.

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Researchers outline creativity practices that entail learning new competencies, establishing a facilitating environment, and offering creativity programs. The keys to creativity are intrinsic motivation, curiosity, making and breaking connections, and honest idea evaluation.

Researcher explains personal creativity cycle, diagrammed above, as follows:

1) Draw Inspiration: You are challenged and/or inspired by something.

2)Exercise Personal Courage: The healthy tension between curiosity (opportunity) and fear (risk), when appropriately encouraged and reinforced by healthy sense of self-esteem, drives you to explore the opportunities.

3) Break Connections: You break the existing connections in your synapses to free your mind (using lateral thinking, meditation and other techniques) from established, limiting patterns.

4) Open Yourself: You stay in limbo, i.e. with a completely open mind, and draw on input from outside sources, especially those that intersect and synthesize multiple disciplines, and add your own internal sensory, integrative and inductive inputs.

5) Create New Connections: You draw on a balance of intuition, emotional intelligence and rational intellect to choose and make new and better connections to convert ideas into opportunities. These opportunities then drive the innovation process.

6) Feel the Reward: The creative process is its own intrinsic reward, a much stronger motivator for more creative effort than externally-offered rewards. The joy you receive from the creative process strengthens your self-value and self-esteem and provokes even more creativity.

The above discussion explains personal creativity cycle which is different from group creativity of an organization.

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Creativity as Process

The fact that the human mind can generate novel concepts and ideas requires explanation. Cognitive psychologists aim to infer the relevant mental processes from observations of how individuals solve problems that require creativity. One hypothesis states that creation is a process of variation and selection, analogous to biological evolution. The mind of a creative person spontaneously generates a large number of random combinations of ideas, and a few chosen combinations become expressed in behavior. An alternative hypothesis is that a creative person is able to override the constraining influence of past experiences and hence consider a wide range of actions and possibilities. The moment at which a previously unheeded but promising option comes to mind is often referred to as insight. A closely related hypothesis is that creative individuals are more able to break free from mental ruts – trains of thought that recur over and over again even though they do not lead to the desired goal or solution. It has also been suggested that people create by making analogies between current and past problems and situations, and by applying abstractions – cognitive schemas – acquired in one domain to another domain. These process hypotheses are not mutually exclusive.   

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Creative Methods

Several methods have been identified for producing creative results. Here are the five classic ones:

1) Evolution: This is the method of incremental improvement. New ideas stem from other ideas, new solutions from previous ones, the new ones slightly improved over the old ones. Many of the very sophisticated things we enjoy today developed through a long period of constant incrementation. Making something a little better here, a little better there gradually makes it something a lot better–even entirely different from the original. For example, look at the history of the automobile or any product of technological progress. With each new model, improvements are made. Each new model builds upon the collective creativity of previous models, so that over time, improvements in economy, comfort, and durability take place. Here the creativity lies in the refinement, the step-by-step improvement, rather than in something completely new. The evolutionary method of creativity also reminds us of that critical principle: Every problem that has been solved can be solved again in a better way. Creative thinkers do not subscribe to the idea that once a problem has been solved, it can be forgotten, or to the notion that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” A creative thinker’s philosophy is that “there is no such thing as an insignificant improvement.”

2) Synthesis: With this method, two or more existing ideas are combined into a third, new idea. Combining the ideas of a magazine and an audio tape gives the idea of a magazine you can listen to, one useful for blind people or freeway commuters.

3) Revolution: Sometimes the best new idea is a completely different one, marked change from the previous ones. While an evolutionary improvement philosophy might cause a professor to ask, “How can I make my lectures better and better?” a revolutionary idea might be, “Why not stop lecturing and have the students teach each other, working as teams or presenting reports?”

4) Reapplication: Look at something old in a new way. Go beyond labels. Unfixate, remove prejudices, expectations and assumptions; and discover how something can be reapplied. The key is to see beyond the previous or stated applications for some idea, solution, or thing and to see what other application is possible. For example, a paperclip can be used as a tiny screwdriver if filed down; paint can be used as a kind of glue to prevent screws from loosening in machinery; dishwashing detergents can be used to remove the DNA from bacteria in a lab; general purpose spray cleaners can be used to kill ants.

5) Changing Direction: Many creative breakthroughs occur when attention is shifted from one angle of a problem to another. This is sometimes called creative insight. The goal is to solve the problem, not to implement a particular solution. When one solution path is not working, shift to another. There is no commitment to a particular path, only to a particular goal. Path fixation can sometimes be a problem for those who do not understand this; they become overcommitted to a path that does not work and only frustration results.

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If I photocopy your comments, I haven’t been creative. Thus, creativity involves an alteration of some kind. Some researchers would like to put forth three types of alterations: Bending, breaking and blending. Bending involves a transformation of the original. Breaking occurs when the original is smashed into pieces and re arranged or certain aspects of the whole are negated. Blending occurs when two sources are merged. In music, bending is variation; breaking is fragmentation and contrast; and blending is counterpoint. Bending, breaking and blending are implicated in every aspect of our lives. We bend a relationship when one partner moves out of town; we break it when we decide to part ways; and we blend when we move in together or have children. These concepts offer a way of integrating creativity into other school subjects. For instance, the civil rights movement was politically creative. Laws were bent and broken in the fight for equal justice. Indian independence movement was politically creative movement to create new free India by breaking and bending British laws. Remember creativity definition: the outcome must be useful and valued to the society. If a criminal breaks a law, it is not creativity as the outcome is harmful to society (vide infra-dark side of creativity).  

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Vectors of creativity:

Cognitive Intelligence–Knowledge–

Technical skill–

Special talents–

Exists in brain system–Could be DNA dependent–
Environment Diet–Education–

Political/religious climate–

Socioeconomic context–

Brain system independent–DNA independent–

 

Personality Intrinsic motivation–Confidence–

Nonconformity–

Exists in brain system–Could be DNA dependent–

 

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Aspects of creativity:

Theories of creativity (in particular investigating why some people are more creative than others) have focused on a variety of aspects. The most dominant are usually identified as the four “Ps” – process, product, person and place. A focus on process is shown in cognitive approaches that try to describe thought mechanisms and techniques for creative thinking. Theories invoking divergent rather than convergent thinking or those describing the staging of the creative process are primarily theories of creative process. A focus on creative product usually appears in attempts to measure creativity in people (psychometrics), or in creative ideas framed as successful memes. A focus on the nature of the creative person considers more general intellectual habits, such as openness, nonconformity, levels of ideation, autonomy, expertise, exploratory behavior and so on. A focus on place considers the best circumstances in which creativity flourishes, including degrees of autonomy, access to resources and the nature of gatekeepers.

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Creativity and intelligence:

Does a person have to be smart to be creative? Modern creativity research emphasizes the difference between intelligence and creativity—all of the recent creativity textbooks, for example, contend that creativity and intelligence are essentially unrelated abilities ([Kauman, 2009], [Runco, 2007], [Sawyer, 2006] and [Weisberg, 2006])—and this distinction dates to Guilford’s (1967) classic distinction between convergent and divergent production. Although latest research clearly indicates that intelligence and creativity are more closely related than conventional thought alleges, I am not suggesting they are the same thing, or even that creativity is a facet of intelligence. Much of the variance in divergent thinking is unaccounted for in latest research, which highlights the need to consider a range of ability and non-ability factors. For example, other cognitive abilities (e.g., crystallized intelligence and visualization), personality traits (e.g., openness to experience), domain knowledge, and motivation play important roles in creative thought, and they should be evaluated for their unique and interactive contributions to individual differences in creative ability.

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One view is that creativity is a type of intelligence just as theory of multiple intelligences suggests that 8 different types of intelligence exist.  Studies have shown that highly creative people are highly intelligent but highly intelligent people are not always creative. The fact that highly creative people have a higher correlation with intelligence than vice versa suggests creativity is simply a higher form of intelligence. Highly intelligent individuals such as Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and Beethoven were highly imaginative, curious, and creative–all creating new concepts and ideas that have value.    

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There has been debate in the psychological literature about whether intelligence and creativity are part of the same process (the conjoint hypothesis) or represent distinct mental processes (the disjoint hypothesis). Some researchers believe that creativity is the outcome of the same cognitive processes as intelligence, and is only judged as creativity in terms of its consequences, i.e. when the outcome of cognitive processes happens to produce something novel, a view which Perkins has termed the “nothing special” hypothesis. An often cited model is what has come to be known as “the threshold hypothesis,” proposed by Ellis Paul Torrance, which holds that a high degree of intelligence appears to be a necessary but not sufficient condition for high creativity. That is, while there is a positive correlation between creativity and intelligence, this correlation disappears for IQs above a threshold of around 120. Such a model has found acceptance by many researchers, although it has not gone unchallenged. A study in 1962 by Getzels and Jackson among high school students concluded that high IQ and high creativity tend to be mutually exclusive with a majority of the highest scoring students being either highly creative or highly intelligent, but not both. While this explains the threshold, the exact interaction between creativity and IQ remains unexplained. A 2005 meta-Analysis found only small correlations between IQ and creativity tests and did not support the threshold theory. Another view is that creativity may be particularly related to fluid intelligence.

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Sternberg (2001) proposed that there is a dialectical relationship between creativity and intelligence and wisdom. Intelligence is necessary for there to be creativity because not only is generation of novel ideas necessary but the critical analysis of novel ideas is also necessary. To be able to generate novel ideas, there must be some basic intelligence, but to further analyze those ideas that are generated, there must be higher intelligence. Sternberg uses the example of Charles Darwin’s theories in evolution. Charles Darwin was thought to be a creative because of his high intelligence – he was able to generate the idea of evolution and to critically analyze it against other possibilities. If his analysis had not been intelligent, then his creativity could have been a chance happening, or it would not have been his theory of evolution in the first place. Beyond intelligence, there must also be “wisdom” because intelligence alone is not sufficient. Wisdom is considered by Sternberg to be the balance between creativity and intelligence relegating the novel ideas according to their appropriateness. It may be easy enough to generate novel ideas, but wisdom will distinguish the reasonable from the unreasonable. A creative and intelligent person may produce a novel idea, but without wisdom, the novel idea may be “foolish” or inappropriate, according to Sternberg.

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Although many people equate creativity with intelligence, the two terms are not synonymous, and it is not necessary to have a genius-level IQ in order to be creative. While creative people do tend to have average or above-average scores on IQ tests, beyond an IQ of about 120, there is little correlation between intelligence and creativity. Individuals in the lower half of the IQ distribution lack the requisite cognitive capacity to create and hence necessarily exhibit low creativity; individuals in the upper half of the IQ distribution have the requisite capacity but may or may not develop a disposition to create. Consequently, creativity and IQ are highly correlated at low IQ levels but weakly correlated at high IQ levels. Alternative interpretations of the relation between creativity and intelligence have been proposed, including that they are two aspects of the same ability, that they are unrelated, and that they are mutually exclusive.

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A study was conducted where four groups of students were formed based on creativity and intelligence scores, namely, High IQ – High Creative, High IQ – Low Creative, Low IQ – High Creative and Low IQ – Low Creative. The mean academic achievement scores of these four groups were compared. There were significant differences between High IQ – Low Creative and Low IQ – Low Creative groups as well as between High IQ – High Creative and Low IQ – Low Creative groups. These findings are only to be expected as the difference in IQ between these pairs of groups is 48 and 50 points respectively. However, there are no significant differences in academic achievement between the High IQ – Low Creative and Low IQ – High Creative groups.  Although the Low IQ – High Creative group had a mean IQ 46 points lower than the High IQ – Low Creative group, the former appears to be able to compensate for this with their higher level of creativity. Another significant finding is the equivalent academic achievement levels of the High IQ – High Creativity and the Low IQ – High Creativity groups although the latter has a mean IQ 50 points lower than the former group. This further accentuates previous findings that creativity may help compensate the lack of intelligence in enhancing academic achievement. This study provides empirical support for the positive relationship between creativity and academic achievement and the finding that this relationship appears to differ across the intelligence continuum. This relationship appears to be positive until an intelligence threshold of around 140, above which it appears to diminish. According to this study, since creativity was able to compensate for deficiency in intelligence, it would be wrong to say that creativity and intelligence are unrelated abilities.

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Scientific evidence linking intelligence to creativity:

A research study was conducted to know whether N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA) concentrations are related to creativity in healthy individuals and if biochemical relationships conformed to the threshold hypothesis of the relationship between intelligence and creativity. The researchers concluded that NAA levels in various regions of the brain did predict creativity, specifically, higher creative potential was present with greater rise in right hemisphere gray matter NAA and lesser rise in right hemisphere NAA, suggesting that the threshold theory of the relationship between intelligence and creativity is also correct, and has a neurobiological basis. Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) is an imaging technique that allows for the assay of neurochemistry in vivo. Within the proton spectrum, N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA) is the most prominent peak, and has been frequently used as a marker of neuronal integrity. Greater NAA concentration has been found to predict higher cognitive function in both normal and patient populations. NAA is linked to intelligence, memory and attention in relation to health and disease; therefore, this study, and others conducted in the future to support and expand upon it, could have much larger implication in terms of improving higher cognitive functioning when it comes to treating degenerative disorders that affect the brain, advances in learning (education) and even organizational innovation. It would be interesting in further research to determine how NAA levels, creativity and intelligence are linked from that nature versus nurture perspective. For example, does creativity run in a family? Are certain groups of people, based on geographic or race/ethnicity, more or less creative than others? How do environmental factors influence NAA levels and creativity? And finally, how are we able to manipulate these factors, using things like pharmacology (drugs), to improve creativeness and innovation in our population.

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Creative individual:

When you look at the behaviors of creative geniuses such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Pablo Picasso and so on throughout the history of the world, you will find that, like the patterns of the trees, the form and contents of their behaviors are inextricably connected and can’t be separated. Creators are joyful and positive. Creators look at what is and what can be instead of what is not. Creators, instead of excluding possibilities include all possibilities, both real and imagined. Creators choose their own interpretations of the world and not the interpretations of others. And most importantly, creators are creative because they believe they are creative. This is a clear early intuition about the utility of permitting ideas and thoughts to randomly combine with each other and the utility of selecting from the many the few to retain. Like the highly playful child with a plenty of Legos, a genius is constantly combining and recombining ideas, images and thoughts into different combinations in their conscious and subconscious minds. Openness to experience is the trait with which we are concerned because it is a measure of creativity. It encompasses scientific and artistic creativity, divergent thinking and political liberalism. At the core of this dimension is openness to feelings and new ideas, and flexibility of thought. Creative individuals tend to share certain characteristics, including a tendency to be more impulsive or spontaneous than others. Nonconformity (not going along with the majority) can also be a sign of creativity. Many creative individuals are naturally unafraid of experimenting with new things; furthermore, creative people are often less susceptible to peer pressure, perhaps because they also tend to be self-reliant and unafraid to voice their true feelings even if those go against conventional wisdom. Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals. Creative people alternate between imagination & fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality. Great art and great science involve a leap of imagination into a world that is different from the present. The rest of society often views these new ideas as fantasies without relevance to current reality. And they are right. But the whole point of art and science is to go beyond what we now consider real and create a new reality. At the same time, this “escape” is not into a never-never land. What makes a novel idea creative is that once we see it; sooner or later we recognize that, strange as it is, it is true. Most of us assume that artists—musicians, writers, poets, painters—are strong on the fantasy side, whereas scientists, politicians, and businesspeople are realists. This may be true in terms of day-to-day routine activities. But when a person begins to work creatively, all bets are off.

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Creativity has been associated with a wide range of behavioral and mental characteristics, including associations between semantically remote ideas and contexts, application of multiple perspectives, curiosity, flexibility in thought and action, rapid generation of multiple, qualitatively different solutions and answers to problems and questions, tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty, and unusual uses of familiar objects. Biographical studies of exceptionally creative individuals have uncovered recurring features. Creative individuals typically master a practice or tradition before they transform it. They organize their lives around a network of interrelated and mutually supporting enterprises. They are prolific. There is no evidence for an inverse relation between quantity and quality; instead, the two appear to be correlated. Exceptionally creative accomplishments are complex, evolving outcomes of long-term efforts sustained by high levels of intrinsic motivation, often in the absence of societal rewards.

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Characteristics of the Creative Person

Curious

Seeks problems

Enjoys challenge

Optimistic

Able to suspend judgment

Comfortable with imagination

Sees problems as opportunities

Sees problems as interesting

Problems are emotionally acceptable

Challenges assumptions

Doesn’t give up easily, perseveres, works hard

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Encouraging creativity since birth:

Creativity takes root in childhood. For the child, life is a creative adventure. The most basic explorations of a child’s world are creative exercises in problem-solving. They begin a lifelong process of inventing themselves. In this sense, every child reinvents language, walking, and love. The kernel of creativity is there in the infant: the desire and drive to explore, to find out about things, to try things out, to experiment with different ways of handling things and looking at things. As they grow older, children begin to create entire universes of reality in their play.

Research has identified the main creativity killers in children:

1) Surveillance: Hovering over kids, making them feel that they’re constantly being watched while they’re working.

2) Evaluation: Making kids worry about how others judge what they are doing. Kids should be concerned primarily with how satisfied they are (and not others) with their accomplishments.

3) Competition: Putting kids in a win/lose situation, where only one person can come out on top. A child should be allowed to progress at his own rate.

4) Over-control: Telling kids exactly how to do things. This leaves children feeling that any exploration is a waste of time. 5) Pressure: Establishing grandiose expectations for a child’s performance. Training regimes can easily backfire and end up instilling an aversion for the subject being taught.

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Infancy:

Scientific research in the late twentieth century revealed how the quality of interaction with unborn infants affects their later development of creative abilities. From birth to 18 months, infants can be encouraged to engage in creativity by playing with a variety of safe household materials, such as margarine tubs, empty boxes, and large empty spools. Parents and caregivers can encourage experimentation by showing excitement and interest in what babies do. Parents can encourage infants to develop creativity by singing to the infant and playing music, moving the infant’s hands to music, hanging a colorful mobile over the crib, placing pictures and photos where the baby can focus on them, and playing sound games with infants, such making up nonsense words or using rhyming words when talking to them.

Toddlerhood:

From ages 18 months to four years, toddlers have progressively better hand and eye coordination. Caregivers should give them opportunities to develop this coordination by allowing them to draw with water-based paints, with chalk, and with crayons. Toddlers also can develop their creativity by pasting, tearing, cutting, printing, modeling with clay or play dough, or working with various materials to create collage, and for the older child, experimenting with fabric, tie dye, batik, printing, and simple woodwork. From around 12 months, children may begin to imitate things that adults do. Real fantasy play begins at around ages 18 to 21 months. This should not prevent caregivers from playing imaginatively from a younger age, since fantasy play is linked to creativity. Studies have shown that children with very active fantasies tend to have personality traits that contribute to creativity—originality, spontaneity, verbal fluency, and a higher degree of flexibility in adapting to new situations.

Childhood:

By age five, many children start drawing recognizable objects. By age six, they are usually interested in explaining their art works. They also like to tell stories and can make books of their stories, including drawing pictures to accompany the writing. At this age fantasy play becomes more complex. Preschoolers often direct each other on what to do or say as they play “Let’s pretend.” Play is a critical part of developing creativity. Early school-age children, six to nine years, incorporate lots of fantasy into their play, including action games with superheroes. Children of this age group spend much of their time daydreaming. Some daydreams become “real” as children begin to act them out in stories and plays. At ages nine to 12, children’s creativity is greatly affected by peer influence. They increase the amount of detail and use of symbols in drawings. They also have expanded their individual creative differences and begin to develop their own set of creative values.

Adolescence:

Teenagers are highly critical of the products they make and ideas they have. They try to express themselves creatively in a more adult-like way. Their creativity is influenced by their individual differences – physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially.

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Creativity and mental illness:

There is a general perception among lay people that creative individuals are mad. There is a great deal of debate for what makes someone creative or not. Vincent Van Gogh has been cited as a “mad genius” in regard to his own self-mutilation (i.e., cutting off his own ear) and his art work. Because of the mystery surrounding creativity, people were uncertain about what underlying traits made some people highly creative and others not. Particularly strong links have been identified between creativity and mood disorders, particularly manic-depressive disorder (bipolar disorder) and depressive disorder (unipolar disorder). In Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament; Kay Redfield Jamison summarizes studies of mood-disorder rates in writers, poets and artists. She also explores research that identifies mood disorders in such famous writers and artists as Ernest Hemingway (who shot himself after electroconvulsive treatment), Virginia Woolf (who drowned herself when she felt a depressive episode coming on), composer Robert Schumann (who died in a mental institution), and even the famed visual artist Michelangelo.

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For decades, scientists have known that eminently creative individuals have a much higher rate of manic depression or bipolar disorder than does the general population. But few controlled studies have been done to build the link between mental illness and creativity. One study that does support such a link was presented at the 2002 annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association by Stanford University researchers Connie Strong and Terence Ketter. Using personality and temperament tests, they found healthy artists to be more similar in personality to individuals with manic depression than to healthy people in the general population. A study looking at 300,000 persons with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or unipolar depression, and their relatives; found overrepresentation in creative professions for those with bipolar disorder as well as for undiagnosed siblings of those with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. There was no overall overrepresentation, but overrepresentation for artistic occupations, among those diagnosed with schizophrenia. There was no association for those with unipolar depression or their relatives.

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What do creativity and madness have in common? Observations from psychiatric studies suggest that there are three characteristics common to both high creative production and madness. These are disturbance of mood, certain types of thinking processes, and tolerance for irrationality.  Disturbance of mood appears to be present in a high percentage of talented visual artists. Mental disorders in which the primary feature is a mood disturbance include major depression, dysthymia and bipolar disorder (also popularly known as manic-depressive illness). There seems to be a greatly increased rate of depression, manic-depressive illness, and suicide in eminent creative people, writers and artists especially. The incidence of mental illness among creative artists is higher than in the population at large. Some studies link creativity with bipolar disorders specifically (Andreasen, 1988; Jamison, 1989; Richards; 1989), and within the field of academic psychiatry, there has recently been serious acceptance of the association between creativity and the mood disturbance, hypomania (Jamison, 1993). There are many eminent persons who are believed to have had a mood disorder (Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, John Keats, T.S. Eliot, and Vincent Van Gogh). Many of them committed suicide. Perhaps the most interesting finding from clinical studies is that there are similarities in the thought processes of manic, psychotic, and highly creative people (Prentky, 1980; Rothenberg, 1990; Rothenberg & Burkhardt, 1984). Psychotic thinking rarely turns into creative production without some abatement of the psychosis, but there is evidence that creative processes sometimes turn into psychotic ones. Finally, insights concerning the relationship between creativity and madness come also from artists themselves. Their reflections and observations about themselves and their work suggest that they have a very high tolerance for irrationality or deviance. In life, creation and destruction are closely related. Many artists report that their motivation for engaging in their creative endeavors is to work through, release, or better understand their own destructive urges. Scientists have wondered for a long time why madness and creativity seem linked, particularly in artists, musicians, and writers. The research results indicate that low levels of latent inhibition (vide infra) and exceptional flexibility in thought predisposes people to mental illness under some conditions and to creative accomplishments under others. Some people are born with highly creative minds. They invent new things faster than they can be utilized. However, the same people are at much higher risk of mental disorder. They may also show less ability to focus or persist. They may crave novelty that makes them jump on new tasks before old once are complete. However, the way their prefrontal cortex harnesses creativity may determine the thin line between a true inborn genius and mental disease.

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Life time prevalence of mental illnesses:

7 to 10 % normative people

4 to 18 % Scientists

25 to 31 % Composers

30 to 38 % Painters

30 to 45 % Writers

20 to 25 % Philosophers

 

Statistically it is obvious that creative scientists have almost similar prevalence of mental illness as that of normal people but creative artists have much higher prevalence of mental illness as compared to normal people. As already discussed before, scientific creativity is cognitive creativity which needs critical thinking to express itself. In other words, both convergent and divergent thinking are required for scientific creativity to manifest. On the other hand, artistic creativity does not need critical thinking as a prerequisite and artists do not need convergent (logical) thinking for artistic creativity. This is the reason why mental illnesses are more common in artistic creative individuals as compared to scientific creative individuals.

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There isn’t a direct link between mental illness and the actual process of creating. Creative people in the artistic professions are more likely to have a mental illness than those in less artistic professions, such as science & business, as already discussed by me. Also, creative people–specifically, eminent female poets–may be more prone to mental illness if they are subjected to extrinsic motivational constraints, such as interpersonal relationships. However, link between creativity and mental illness is often fraught with methodological problems, including selection bias, controls that are not blinded, reliance on biographies that might play up mental illness, retrospective designs and unclear definitions of creativity. And considering that not all studies have found a link between creativity and mental illness, the jury is still out on the specific nature of the relationship. While divergent thinking was associated with bilateral activation of the prefrontal cortex, schizotypal individuals were found to have much greater activation of their right prefrontal cortex. This study hypothesizes that such individuals are better at accessing both hemispheres, allowing them to make novel associations at a faster rate. In agreement with this hypothesis, ambidexterity is also associated with schizotypal and schizophrenic individuals. Schizophrenics are less intelligent than average. Schizophrenics are less creative than average. But, individuals with schizophrenic tendencies (i.e., schizotypal traits) tend to be more creative than average. Participants with higher schizotypal traits tended to be more creative on various self-report tests of creativity.

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Intrigued by history’s list of “troubled geniuses”, Rothenberg investigates how two such opposite conditions—outstanding creativity and psychosis—could coexist in individuals such as August Strindberg and Sylvia Plath. He also examines the role of emotional disturbance in the lives of Emily Dickinson, Eugene O’Neill, and others. After studying creative geniuses of the past, conducting more than 2,000 hours of psychiatric interviews with award-winning writers, artists, and scientists, and carrying out psychological experiments with more than 1,000 research subjects, Rothenberg concludes that high-level creativity transcends the usual modes of logical thought—and may even superficially resemble psychosis. But he also discovers that all types of creative thinking generally occur in a rational and conscious frame of mind, not in a mystically altered or transformed state. He asserts that there is nothing pathological in creativity, though it clearly can coexist with psychosis. He also explores the influence of upbringing and environment, noting that successful creative people usually have a parent with a creative interest, sometimes one who had tried creative work and failed. Far from being the source—or the price—of creativity, Rothenberg concludes, psychosis and other forms of mental illness are actually hindrances to creative work.      

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Besides Rothenberg, there have been researchers that have not found creativity to be related to psychoticism. Kline and Cooper (1986) conducted an experiment using the EPQ and tests for creative behavior and did not find psychoticism to be related to creativity on all levels. It is reasonable that creativity would be more closely linked to intelligence than to psychoticism considering the proposed cognitive processes underlying creativity. With a higher intelligence, more knowledge could be acquired, and thus more similarities and dissimilarities could be known in order to make connections between two ideas. Through this understanding, novel and appropriate results could be found and tested. Although psychoticism could lead to an increase of novel ideas, which does not mean that, the necessary appropriateness would be present. As discussed before, novelty must be paired with appropriateness for existence of creativity.

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Some studies have found that creative skills are more common in people who have mental illness in their families, and are associated with a higher risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Also, certain psychological traits, such as the ability to make unusual or bizarre associations are shared by schizophrenics and healthy, highly creative people. Thinking outside the box might be facilitated by having a somewhat less intact box. The brain responds differently to the “feel good” chemical dopamine in both schizophrenics and highly creative, a new study suggests. Researchers administered psychological tests to 14 participants with no history of mental illness. The tests were designed to measure creativity, asking the subjects to find many different solutions to a problem. Those who did well on this test, and were deemed “highly creative”, had a lower density of specific receptors in their brains for dopamine, called D2 receptors (as measured by Positron Emission Tomography and the radioligands) , in a region called the thalamus, than did less creative people. Schizophrenics are also known to have low D2 density in this part of the brain, suggesting a cause of the link between mental illness and creativity. As far as divergent thinking is concerned, there are two brain areas of particular interest: the striatum and thalamus. Many neurons in both regions have D2 receptors. And interestingly enough, these regions are also linked with schizophrenia. The thalamus serves as a kind of relay center, filtering information before it reaches areas of the cortex, which is responsible, amongst other things, for cognition and reasoning. Fewer D2 receptors in the thalamus probably means a lower degree of signal filtering, and thus a higher flow of information from the thalamus, and explains that this could a possible mechanism behind the ability of healthy highly creative people to see numerous uncommon connections in a problem-solving situation and the bizarre associations found in the mentally ill. It cannot be overemphasized that cognition is in cerebral cortex and therefore fewer D2 receptors in thalamus may make many uncommon connections, but logic is added by cortex and that differentiates creative individual from schizophrenic. Connecting unrelated ideas to create novel idea is a process which when logical becomes creativity and when illogical becomes madness. Since so called artistic creativity does not need critical thinking (logic), artists are more prone to mental illness. On the other hand, scientifically creative individuals appear mad to lay people because lay people are unable to understand logic of their novel idea. No wonder, artists make more money than scientists because money comes from lay people.

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Factors that enhance creativity:

Ever been stuck and feel like you can’t get out of your box? Maybe even backed into a corner? Develop positive attitude for creativity.

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1) Curiosity:

 Creative people want to know things–all kinds of things– just to know them. Knowledge does not require a reason. The question, “Why do you want to know that?” seems strange to the creative person, who is likely to respond, “Because I don’t know the answer.” Knowledge is enjoyable and often useful in strange and unexpected ways. Next, knowledge, and especially wide ranging knowledge, is necessary for creativity to flourish to its fullest. Much creativity arises from variations of a known or combinations of two knowns. The best ideas flow from a well equipped mind. Nothing can come from nothing. In addition to knowing, creative people want to know why. What are the reasons behind decisions, problems, solutions, events, facts, and so forth? Why this way and not another? And why not try this or that? The curious person’s questioning attitude toward life is a positive one, not a destructive one reflecting skepticism, cynicism or negativism. It often seems threatening because too often there is no good reason behind many of the things that are taken for granted–there is no “why” behind the status quo. So ask questions of everyone. Ask the same question of different people just to be able to compare the answers. Look into areas of knowledge you’ve never before explored, whether cloth dying, weather forecasting, food additives, ship building, the U.S. budget, or the toxicity of laundry detergents. Lifelong learning is a sine qua non of creativity. The more you learn the more curious you become. An average man curses a rock he stumbles against. A great scientist can pick up a rock and write a dissertation about it. This is exactly how the groundbreaking theories of continental drift or plate tectonics begun. The more curiosity you find in your mind, the better your creative prospects. If you doubt your own curiosity, try incremental reading on subjects that are interesting to you today. If you persist for some time and hone your incremental reading skills, you curiosity may in time grow beyond manageable limits.

2) Challenge:

 Curious people like to identify and challenge the assumptions behind ideas, proposals, problems, beliefs, and statements. Many assumptions, of course, turn out to be quite necessary and solid, but many others have been assumed unnecessarily, and in breaking out of those assumptions often comes a new idea, a new path, a new solution.

3) Constructive discontent:

This is not a whining, griping kind of discontent, but the ability to see a need for improvement and to propose a method of making that improvement. Constructive discontent is a positive, enthusiastic discontent, reflecting the thought, “Hey, I know a way to make that better.” Constructive discontent is necessary for a creative problem solver, for if you are happy with everything the way it is, you won’t want to change anything. Only when you become discontent with something, when you see a problem, will you want to solve the problem and improve the situation. One of the hallmarks of the constructively discontented person is that of a problem seeking outlook. The more problems you find, the more solutions and therefore improvements you can make. Even previously solved problems can often be solved again, in a better way. A constructively discontent person might think, “This is an excellent solution, but I wonder if there isn’t another solution that works even better (or costs less, etc).” Another mark of constructive discontent is the enjoyment of challenge. Creative people are eager to test their own limits and the limits of problems, willing to work hard, to persevere and not give up easily. Sometimes the discontent is almost artificial–they aren’t really unhappy with the status quo of some area, but they want to find something better just for the challenge of it and the opportunity to improve their own lives and those of others.

4) A belief that most problems can be solved:

By faith at first and by experience later on, the creative thinker believes that something can always be done to eliminate or help alleviate almost every problem. Problems are solved by a commitment of time and energy, and where this commitment is present, few things are impossible.

5) The ability to suspend judgment and criticism:

 Be open and receptive to ideas (yours and others). New ideas are fragile; keep them from breaking by seizing on the tentative, half formed concepts & possibilities and developing them. Many new ideas, because they are new and unfamiliar, seem strange, odd, bizarre, and even repulsive. Only later do they become “obviously” great. Other ideas, in their original incarnations, are indeed weird, but they lead to practical, beautiful, elegant things. Thus, it is important for the creative thinker to be able to suspend judgment when new ideas are arriving, to have an optimistic attitude toward ideas in general, and to avoid condemning them with the typical kinds of negative responses like, “That will never work; that’s no good; what an idiotic idea; that’s impossible,” and so forth. Hospital sterilization and antiseptic procedures, television, radio, the Xerox machine, and stainless steel all met with ho-hums and even hostile rejection before their persevering inventors finally sold someone on the ideas.

 6) Seeing the good in the bad:

Creative thinkers, when faced with poor solutions, don’t cast them away. Instead, they ask, “What’s good about it?” because there may be something useful even in the worst ideas. And however little that good may be, it might be turned to good effect or made greater. We easily fall into either/or thinking and believe that a bad solution is bad through and through, in every aspect, when in fact, it may have some good parts we can borrow and use on a good solution, or it may do inappropriately something that’s worth doing appropriately. And often, the bad solution has just one really glaring bad part, that when remedied, leaves quite a good solution.

 7) Problems lead to improvements:

The attitude of constructive discontent searches for problems and possible areas of improvement, but many times problems arrive on their own. But such unexpected and perhaps unwanted problems are not necessarily bad, because they often permit solutions that leave the world better than before the problem arose.

8) A problem can also be a solution:

 A fact that one person describes as a problem can sometimes be a solution for someone else. Above we noted that creative thinkers can find good ideas in bad solutions. Creative thinkers also look at problems and ask, “Is there something good about this problem?” For example, soon after the advent of cyanoacrylate adhesives (super glue), it was noted that if you weren’t careful, you could glue your fingers together with it. This problem–a permanent skin bond–was soon seen as a solution also. Surgeons in Viet Nam began to use super glue to glue wounds together.

9) Problems are interesting and emotionally acceptable:

 Many people confront every problem with a shudder and a turn of the head. They don’t even want to admit that a problem exists–with their car, their spouse, their child, their job, and their house, whatever. As a result, often the problem persists and drives them crazy or rises to a crisis and drives them crazy. Creative people see problems as interesting challenges worth tackling. Problems are not fearful beasts to be feared or loathed; they are worthy opponents to be jousted with and unhorsed. Problem solving is fun, educational, rewarding, ego building and helpful to society.

10) Perseverance:

Most people fail because they spend only nine minutes on a problem that requires ten minutes to solve. Creativity and problem solving are hard work and require fierce application of time and energy. There is no quick and easy secret. You need knowledge gained by study and research and you must put your knowledge to work by hard thinking and protracted experimentation. You’ve surely read of the difficulties and setbacks faced by most of the famous inventors–how many filaments Edison tried before he found a working one, how many aircraft designs failed in the attempt to break the sound barrier.  Planning to persevere is planning to succeed.

11) A flexible imagination:

 Creative people are comfortable with imagination and with thinking so-called weird, wild, or unthinkable thoughts, just for the sake of stimulation. During brainstorming or just mental playfulness, all kinds of strange thoughts and ideas can be entertained. And the mind, pragmatist that it is, will probably find something useful in it all.

 12) A belief that mistakes are welcome:

 Modern society has for some reason conceived the idea that the only unforgivable thing is to fail or make a mistake. Actually failure is an opportunity; mistakes show that something is being done. So creative people have come to realize and accept emotionally that making mistakes is no negative biggie. One chief executive of a big American corporation warns all his newly hired managers, “Make sure you make a reasonable number of mistakes.” Mistakes are educational and can lead to success–because they mean you are doing something. In creative problem-solving, a mistake is an experiment to learn from, valuable information about what to try next. People often pack in their efforts because they are afraid of making mistakes, which can be embarrassing, even humiliating. But if you take no chances and make no mistakes, you fail to learn, let alone do anything unusual or innovative. Research suggests that creative people make more mistakes than their less imaginative peers. They are less proficient—it’s just that they make more attempts than most others. They spin out more ideas, come up with more possibilities, and generate more schemes. They win some; they lose some.

13) Exercise your brain:

Brains like bodies need exercise to keep fit. If you don’t exercise your brain, it will get flabby and useless. Exercise your brain by reading a lot, talking to clever people and disagreeing with people – arguing can be a terrific way to give your brain cells a workout. But note, arguing about politics or film directors is good for you; bickering over who should clean the dishes is not.

14) Capture your new ideas & idea recording:

Keep track of your ideas at all times. Many times ideas come at unexpected times. If an idea is not written down within 24 hours it will usually be forgotten. In order to prevent escape of creative idea/thought from mind, best way is to note it down quickly on a piece of paper. One must be always be prepared to write down unexpected ideas and thoughts. Our brains are always working no matter what activities we are doing. You may be taking a shower, sitting on the toilet, driving to work, taking the dog for a walk, washing the dishes, listening to music or sitting in a boring meeting at work etc and you suddenly had a flash of inspiration but had no means of recording your idea. You thought you could remember the idea until a convenient time to write it down, but you found the idea had vanished as quickly as it appeared. Ideas and thoughts are fleeting and unless you catch them immediately, they will be lost. There’s no way to predict when a great idea is likely to pop into your mind so you must be prepared at all times to record them. Once you have established the habit of idea recording you will be surprised at how many good ideas you actually think of each day. There are many ways to capture your ideas and you should choose a method that works for you. You may want to use more than one method depending on what you are doing. You may keep a notebook, index card, micro-cassette recorder, laptop, palmtop, electronic diary or any piece of paper to record the idea. Upon rereading your notes, you may discover about 90% of your ideas are daft. Don’t worry, that’s normal. What’s important are the 10% that are brilliant.  

15) Broaden your knowledge and diversity:

Knowledge is the software of your creative engine. The more knowledge you throw at a problem, the more new ideas and associations you will be able to generate. No major breakthrough in science or engineering is produced in a knowledge vacuum. Human brain works incrementally. It is basically unable of great leaps. Even Einstein arrived at his breakthroughs in incremental manner by piecing the blocks of the jigsaw puzzle produced by the non-relativistic physics of his time. Your creative breakthrough in the area of chemistry may come while studying architecture. Besides reading the magazines, journals, and other literature in your field to make sure you are not using yesterday’s technology to solve toady’s problems, read journals in unrelated fields. This makes more diverse knowledge available for interconnection, which is the basis for all creative thought. Look at my life. An ordinary medical doctor writing about nanotechnology, economy, religion and creativity. This is possible because I trained my brain to work in different domains. Diversity stimulates creativity. The more you have diverse knowledge, the more you will become creative. The more you have knowledge in only one field; you will become expert in that field but not creative. The world needs both creativity and expertise. Diversity breeds creativity. The affirmative action policy in US universities, where admission criteria for certain candidates are relaxed taking into account the extra edge that diverse backgrounds can bring in, result in creative output. There`s nothing wrong with the decision of the six new IIMs in India to award special marks for admission to women and non-engineering students. The IIMs in question feel that their admission process is skewed towards male engineering graduates and therefore greater diversity in the classroom would make for more academic creativity. Regular dinners with diverse and interesting friends and a work space festooned with out-of-the-ordinary objects will help you develop more original ideas. You can also keep your thoughts lively by taking a trip to an art museum or attending an opera—anything that stimulates new thinking.  

16) Laughter and humor:

While creativity takes hard work, the work goes more smoothly if you take it lightly. Humor greases the wheels of creativity. When you’re joking around, you’re freer to consider any possibility—after all, you’re only kidding. Having fun helps you disarm the inner censor that all too quickly condemns your ideas as ludicrous. Researchers report that when teams of people are working together on a problem, those groups that laugh most readily & most often are more creative & productive than their more dour and decorous counterparts. Joking around makes good sense. Playfulness is itself a creative state. Keep your sense of humor. You are more creative when you are relaxed. Humor aids in putting your problems (and yourself) in perspective. Many times it relieves tension and makes you more relaxed. 

17) Suitable state of mind:

Nurture your mental health, get enough sleep, avoid stress, learn about the neurophysiology of the mental effort, and work on understanding your own mental states to optimize the conditions and the timing of creative effort. In a healthy, well-managed individual, the best creative results can be obtained early in the morning (e.g. after a cup of coffee).

18) Suitable environment:

Turn off the phone, lock your door, turn off the radio, CD or MP3-player (even your favorite music can be distracting), and focus 100% on the studied subject. For inspiration turn to brainstorming, “creative walking”, creative blackboard doodles, Idea fisher, or use incremental reading with a heavy load of related study material. Excessive TV watching and social networking does suppress creativity.

19) Time:

 For a breakthrough solution, give up as much of little things in life and focus on your goal. Keep on learning and thinking. One of the most creative times in Newton’s time was when he was forced to the province as the bubonic plague closed his university in 1665. The Beagle trip gave Darwin five years to digest new observations on variability of species. Heisenberg’s best time might be when he was recovering from a bout of hay fever on the island of Helgoland in 1925. The kind of life I lived in India gave me little time for creative thoughts and ironically, I am writing on creativity.

20) Motivation:

 This one is hard to develop. The vicious circle of bad motivation comes from the fact that once there is no motivation, you have no motivation to develop it. Luckily, the fact that you are reading this article may testify that your motivation is sufficient (this may though not translate to self-discipline and execution yet). Psychogenic motivation of a creative mind comes from an unshakeable hierarchy of values, a lofty goal well-rooted in that hierarchy, and understanding of self-discipline techniques.

21) Creative hobbies:

Engage in creative hobbies. Hobbies can also help you relax.

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Factors that block creativity:

1) Oh no, a problem!

The reaction to a problem is often a bigger problem than the problem itself. Many people avoid or deny problems until it’s too late, largely because these people have never learned the appropriate emotional, psychological, and practical responses. A problem is an opportunity.

2) It can’t be done:

This attitude is, in effect, surrendering before the battle. By assuming that something cannot be done or a problem cannot be solved, a person gives the problem a power or strength it didn’t have before. And giving up before starting is, of course, self fulfilling. But look at the history of solutions and the accompanying skeptics: man will never fly, diseases will never be conquered, and rockets will never leave the atmosphere. Again, the appropriate attitude is summed up by the statement, “The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer”.

 3) I can’t do it. Or there’s nothing I can do:

 Some people think, well maybe the problem can be solved by some expert, but not by me because I’m not (a) smart enough, (b) an engineer etc. Again, though, look at the history of problem solving. Who were the Wright brothers that they could invent an airplane? Aviation engineers? No, they were bicycle mechanics. The ball point pen was invented by a printer’s proofreader. Major advances in submarine design were made by English clergyman and by Irish schoolmaster. The cotton gin was invented by that well known attorney and tutor. The fire extinguisher was invented by a captain of militia. And so on. In a nutshell, a good mind with a positive attitude and some good problem solving skills will go far in solving any problem. Interest and commitment to the problem are the keys. Motivation–a willingness to expend the effort–is more important than laboratory apparatus. And remember that you can always do something. Even if you cannot totally eradicate the problem from the face of the earth, you can always do something to make the situation better.

4) But I’m not creative:

Everyone is creative to some extent. Most people are capable of very high levels of creativity; just look at young children when they play and imagine. The problem is that this creativity has been suppressed by education. All you need to do is let it come back to the surface. You will soon discover that you are surprisingly creative. Denying your own creativity is like denying you’re a human being. We’re all limitlessly creative, but only to the extent that we realize that we create our own limits with the way we think.

5) That’s childish:

 In our effort to appear mature and sophisticated, we often ridicule the creative, playful attitudes that marked our younger years. But if you solve a problem that saves your marriage or gets you promoted or keep your friend from suicide, do you care whether other people describe your route to the solution as “childish”?  Remember that sometimes people laugh when something is actually funny, but often they laugh when they lack the imagination to understand the situation.

6) What will people think?

There is a strong social pressure to conform and to be ordinary and not creative. The constant emphasis we see in society is toward the ruthlessly practical and conformist. Even the wild fashions, from those in Vogue to punk rock, are narrowly defined, and to deviate from them is considered wrong or ridiculous. Some peoples’ herd instinct is so strong that they make sheep look like radical individualists. So, what will people think? Well, they’re already talking about you, saying that your nose is too big or your shoes are funny or you date weird people. So, since others are going to talk about you in unflattering ways anyway, you might as well relax and let your creativity and individualism flow. Almost every famous contributor to the betterment of civilization was ridiculed and sometimes even jailed. Think about Galileo. Solutions are often new ideas, and new ideas, being strange, are usually greeted with laughter, contempt, or both. That’s just a fact of life, so make up your mind not to let it bother you. Ridicule should be viewed as a badge of real innovative thinking. 

7) I might fail:

Thomas Edison, in his search for the perfect filament for the incandescent lamp, tried anything he could think of, including whiskers from a friend’s beard. In all, he tried about 1800 things. After about 1000 attempts, someone asked him if he was frustrated at his lack of success. He said something like, “I’ve gained a lot of knowledge–I now know a thousand things that won’t work.” Fear of failure is one of the major obstacles to creativity and problem solving. The cure is to change your attitude about failure. Failures along the way should be expected and accepted; they are simply learning tools that help focus the way toward success. Not only is there nothing wrong with failing, but failing is a sign of action, struggle and attempt–much better than inaction. The go-with-the- flow types may never fail, but they are essentially useless to humanity, nor can they ever enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes after a long struggle. Adopt a risk taking attitude. Fear of failure is the major impediment to generating solutions which are risky (i.e., small chance of succeeding) but would have a major impact if they are successful. Outlining the ways you could fail and how you would deal with these failures will reduce this obstacle to creativity.  

8) Always think the way you’ve always thought:

When confronted with a problem, fixate on what you were taught about how past thinkers solved it. Then analytically select the most promising logical past approach and apply it to the problem, excluding all other possibilities.

9) Be focused:

The key to logical, linear thinking is knowing what to exclude from your mental space. Exclude everything that is dissimilar, unrelated or is in some other domain from your subject. If you want to improve the can opener, only study existing can openers and how they are made. Then work on improving what exists.

10) Always do what you’ve always done:

 If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. This will minimize surprises and mistakes. We are all a product of our experience. Stay within your comfort zone and don’t waste time and energy exploring what people in unrelated areas do.

11) Be skeptical:

 Whenever an idea is offered, analyze it, criticize it and judge it. Never defer judgment. Be skeptical. Look for reasons why it can’t work or can’t be done. Take pride in being the devil’s advocate. Where’s the data? The research? Where’s the evidence it can work? What’s the history of the person who suggested the idea? Always remember people equate skepticism with wisdom.

12) Always listen to the experts:

They spend their lives studying their subjects and know what’s possible and what is not. You do not. Respect their expertise and follow their advice religiously.

13) Never try anything you haven’t tried before:

 Only attempt those things where you have the past experience and knowledge and know you can succeed. There are reasons why some things have never been done.

14) Avoid ambiguity:

 Ambiguity leads to indecisiveness and confusion. The sky is either blue or not blue. You are either right or wrong. There are no grey areas or in-betweens.  Never trust something that works when you can’t understand why. We rationally realize that almost every situation is ambiguous to some degree. And although dividing complex situations into black and white boxes can lead to disaster, we still do it. It’s an innate characteristic of human psychology to desire certainty, but it’s the creative thinker who rejects the false comfort of clarity when it’s not really appropriate. Ambiguity is your friend if you’re looking to innovate. The fact that most people are uncomfortable exploring uncertainty gives you an advantage, as long as you can embrace ambiguity rather than run from it.

15) Prejudice:

The older we get, the more preconceived ideas we have about things. These preconceptions often prevent us from seeing beyond what we already know or believe to be possible. They inhibit us from accepting change and progress. Avoid rigid, set patterns of doing things. Overcome biases and preconceived notions by looking at the problem from a fresh view point, always developing at least two or more alternative solutions to your problem.

16) Functional fixation:

 Sometimes we begin to see an object only in terms of its name rather in terms of what it can do. Thus, we see a mop only as a device for cleaning a floor, and do not think that it might be useful for clearing cobwebs from the ceiling, washing the car, doing aerobic exercise, propping a door open or closed, and so on. Similarly, when the telephone began its rise, some of the telegraph companies said, “That’s not our business; we’re telegraph companies.” But if they had said, “Hey, we’re in the communication business, and here’s a new way to communicate,” they would have grown rather than died. And there’s a functional fixation of people, too. Think a minute how you react when you see your pastor mowing his lawn, or your auto mechanic on a television show promoting a book. Stereotyping can even be a form of functional fixation–how many people would laugh at a model quoting Einstein?  Too often we permit only a narrow range of attitudes and behaviors in other people, based on bias, prejudice, hasty generalization, or limited past experience. Think of those statements like, “I can’t believe he said that”, or “Imagine her doing that”, and so on.

17) Learned helplessness:

 This is the feeling that you don’t have the tools, knowledge, materials, ability, to do anything, so you might as well not try. We are trained to rely on other people for almost everything. We think small and limit ourselves. But the world can be interacted with. If you are in need of information, there are libraries, bookstores, friends, professors, and of course, the Internet. If you are technologically poor, you can learn. Learn how to cook, use tools, make clothes, and use a computer. You can learn to do anything you really want to do. All you need is the motivation and commitment. You can learn to fly an airplane, drive a truck, scuba dive, fix a car–name it.

18) Psychological blocks:

Some solutions are not considered or are rejected simply because our reaction to them is “Yuck.” But icky solutions themselves may be useful or good if they solve a problem well or save your life. Eating lizards and grasshoppers doesn’t sound great, but if it keeps you alive in the wilderness, it’s a good solution. Perhaps more importantly, what at first seem to be icky ideas may lead to better solutions. When doctors noted that some unsophisticated natives were using giant ant heads to suture wounds, they imitated this pincer-closing technique by inventing the surgical staple. Psychological blocks prevent you from doing something just because it doesn’t sound good or right, which is a pretty ridiculous thing. Overcoming such blocks can be really beneficial. Navy commandos in Vietnam overcame their blocks and put on women’s panty hose when they marched through the swamps and jungle. The panty hose cut down on the friction & rubbing from the plants and aided in removing the dozens of leeches after a mission. Overcoming the block to using your own blood to write a help note could save your life someday if you got kidnapped.

19) Trying to Find the “Right” Answer:

One of the worst aspects of formal education is the focus on the correct answer to a particular question or problem. While this approach helps us function in society, it hurts creative thinking because real-life issues are ambiguous. There’s often more than one “correct” answer, and the second one you come up with might be better than the first.

20) Logical Thinking:

Not only is real life ambiguous, it’s often illogical to the point of madness. While critical thinking skills based on logic are one of our main strengths in evaluating the feasibility of a creative idea, it’s often the enemy of truly innovative thoughts in the first place.

21) Following Rules:

One way to view creative thinking is to look at it as a destructive force. You’re tearing away the often arbitrary rules that others have set for you, and asking either “why” or “why not” whenever confronted with the way “everyone” does things.

This is easier said than done, since people will often defend the rules they follow even in the face of evidence that the rule doesn’t work.

22) Being Practical:

Like logic, practicality is hugely important when it comes to execution, but often stifles innovative ideas before they can properly blossom. Try not to evaluate the actual feasibility of an approach until you’ve allowed it to exist on its own for a bit. Spend time asking “what if” as often as possible, and simply allow your imagination to go where it wants. You might just find yourself discovering a crazy idea that’s so insanely practical that no one’s thought of it before. Indian leaders and Indian media used to criticize my mathematical formula of Pi as impractical instead of appreciating it. Now they are dumb folded as I used the same formula of Pi in the theory of “Duality of Existence” showing co-existence of straightness and curvedness between two points.

23) Being a “Serious” Person:

Most of what keeps us civilized boils down to conformity, consistency, shared values, and yes, thinking about things the same way everyone else does. There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily, but if you can mentally accept that it’s actually nothing more than groupthink that helps a society function, you can then give yourself permission to turn everything that’s accepted upside down and shake out the illusions. Leaders from Egyptian pharaohs to Chinese emperors and European royalty have consulted with fools, or court jesters, when faced with tough problems. The persona of the fool allowed the truth to be told, without the usual ramifications that might come with speaking blasphemy or challenging ingrained social conventions. Give yourself permission to be a fool and see things for what they really are.

24) Being overwhelmed by information:

It’s called “analysis paralysis”; the condition of spending so much time thinking about a problem and cramming your brain with so much information that you lose the ability to act. It’s been said that information is to the brain what food is to the body. True enough. But just as you can overeat, you can also over-think.

25) Creating and evaluating at the same time:

You can’t drive a car in first gear and reverse at the same time. Likewise, you shouldn’t try to use different types of thinking simultaneously. You’ll strip your mental gears. Creating means generating new ideas, visualizing, looking ahead, considering the possibilities. Evaluating means analyzing and judging, picking apart ideas and sorting them into piles of good and bad, useful and useless. Most people evaluate too soon and too often, and therefore create less. In order to create more and better ideas, you must separate creation from evaluation, coming up with lots of ideas first, then judging their worth later.

26) Stress:

 Stress is not only a distraction which drains energy which could otherwise be used creatively; it is bad for one’s health.

27) Routines:

 Routines or set ways of performing tasks have their uses, but allowing them to become too entrenched in one’s life causes one to limit the range of responses available and can lead to the development of the anathema of creativity, the “bureaucratic mind”. My personal experience shows that Indian bureaucrats are most un-creative individuals in the world.

28) Beliefs:

Having a strong belief in something not only limits our response options, but causes us to limit the way in which we perceive and process information from the outside world. We may “filter out” information which contradicts our belief, and end up in our own “reality tunnel”, in which we remain blissfully unaware of much that occurs in front of our very eyes.

29) Ego;

 Having a strong ego identity with a particular belief exacerbates this situation and can lead to us aggressively defending it, to the detriment of ourselves, our creativity, and society. This is not to imply that one must have no beliefs, but one needs to be very aware of one’s beliefs and consequent limitations.

30) Self criticism:

Negative thinking and self criticism are also limiting factors of an individual’s creativity.

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Creativity is an effective resource that resides in all people and within all organizations. More than thirty years of research has conclusively demonstrated that creativity can be nurtured and enhanced through the use of deliberate tools, techniques and strategies. The shortest formula for enhanced creativity: curiosity, motivation, diversity, nonconformity, suitable state of mind, perseverance, understanding the creative process, and inter-disciplinary knowledge.

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Creativity and environment:

I have discussed many factors that enhance or block creativity and some of them belong to environment. For genius accomplishments and high creativity, you need to pay lots of attention to the right working and living environment. If your job is full of stress, human conflict, anxiety, disruption, etc. your creative potential will easily go to waste! In modern society, nothing pays back better than genius, creativity and novel ideas. It is better to get a poorly paid job that will let you grow than to enslave your mental potential in an environment that will pull you into the proverbial rate race. Stress is a well-known creativity killer. Time constraints are another. How can one cope with the distractions of daily life that inhibit or deflect creativity (for example, child care, elderly parents care, dull job, ill health, etc.)?  Coping with the distractions and necessities of daily life is a major challenge for most of us. But just as we find the time to eat and sleep, we need to find the time to ignite our creativity. Is it not possible to find one hour per day to spend exploring our talents and finding our creative path? Set aside a special thinking time or thinking place. Gaming, as a hobby, can improve problem solving and creative skills. The distractions of daily life can be reframed as challenges that require your creative abilities to meet. Your day to day routines afford the most common opportunities for you to be creative. In fact, if you take stock of a typical week, you will find that you have indeed been very creative in solving many of the problems that confront you. Of course, we tend not to notice this. You may even tell yourself that what you do is not creative at all. Be careful what you tell yourself. You may begin believing it.

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Here is a basic checklist for inspecting your conditions for creative effort:

1)   Sleep: Are you able to get as many hours of sleep as your body needs? Are you able to go to sleep then when you feel sleepy? Lack of sleep, poor sleeping conditions, or wrong sleeping hours are top causes of suppressed creativity. Without meeting your sleeping needs, you may not even live up to a quarter of your creative potential.

2)   Stress: Are you able to isolate yourself from the surrounding rat race? Are you surrounded with good people of good hearts?  Stress along with sleep deprivation are the most important suppressors of creativity. When you leave for the toilet, your brain should still live with the creative problem that consumes most of your attention; it should not stray to ruminate over a conflict at work, or in the family, or in a traffic jam. The damage done by stress is not only related to lost time and attention, but also due to lost health, and the negative impact of stress hormones on memory consolidation and neuronal degeneration. In contrast, serotonin, the “optimistic hormone”, increases neurogenesis.

3)   Health: Never skimp on time you should devote to exercise. Quality circulation and a healthy respiratory system are needed to nourish your brain during a creative effort and during sleep. Stick to a healthy diet. If you are overweight you may miss lots of quality creative time by simply being less alert and energetic. Smoking is a bad short-term alertness booster, over years; your mental power will be curtailed dramatically. If you believe smoking helps your attention, note that similar effects can be accomplished with exercise; without inhaling a carcinogenic mix of poisons.

4)    Let the sunshine in: Research suggests that spending time in natural settings may boost creativity. In a 2002 Creativity Research Journal (Vol. 14, No. 3.4) study led by McCoy, high school students designed more innovative collages—as judged by six independent raters—in a setting high in direct sunlight and natural wood than in a space mainly finished with manufactured materials such as drywall and plastic.

5)   Get happy: A 2004 Creativity Research Journal (Vol. 16, No. 2.3) study with undergraduates found that sadness inhibits new ideas. This may be because when people are sad, they are more wary of making mistakes and exercise more restraint.

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Environment and my creativity:

I had lived a very stressful life in India. Two broken marriages, eight different court cases, loss of wealth, defamation by newspapers are some of the stresses I experienced besides emotional trauma of broken marriages. Medical profession with 24 hour on call for emergency does affect sleep disturbing creativity. Health problems with hearing impairment did compound the accumulated stress. Also, spending most of my time on non-creative work to earn livelihood leaves little time for creativity. On the top, blocking comments on ourbollywood.com by media did disturb creative fluency and output. Nonetheless, despite environment hostile to creativity, I started my own website to educate people and creative idea output was a natural consequence of it. The point I want to make is that if there is a will, there is a way. Nobody in the world should blame environment for lack of creativity but overcome difficulties in assertive way to become a useful member of world community.

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Creativity and education:

Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we’re educating our children and believes that education kills creativity. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity. Ken Robinson makes a profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. Many researchers believe that in order to foster creativity in schools, education should be based on the discovery of knowledge and the development of critical attitudes, rather than on the passive absorption of knowledge. They believe this applies whether the class is in art, history, science, or humanities. However, most school teaching in the world is based on the child’s ability to memorize. The highest marks are often given to those who merely studied their lessons well. The pupil whose creative side is more developed may be considered a disruptive member of the class. For this reason some educators decided to encourage creativity outside the school system. In most high schools, classes that stress creativity, such as art, music, writing, and drama are optional and many may not be required. For many adolescents, high school is their last opportunity to take these creative classes. Rewards or incentives appear to interfere with creativity and reduce children’s flexibility of thought. Studies show that any constraints such as structured instructions reduce creative flexibility in children. Many parents and teachers do not understand that children who are creative are often involved in imaginary play and are motivated by internal rather than external factors. There is widespread concern among educators in Western countries that the trend to define the goals of schooling in terms of standardized tests forces teachers to prioritize fact learning and analytical ability over creativity. Educators all over world should recognize, appreciate, and encourage different styles of creativity.

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Creative individuals often elicit negative reactions from others by violating social norms and expectations. In a school setting, care should be taken to distinguish creative students from students who cause disturbances due to emotional or social problems. Creative students who find ways to engage others in their projects are likely to become outgoing and adopt leadership roles. Creative students who experience difficulties in this regard are likely to engage in individual projects. In short, high creativity is compatible with both social and individualistic life styles; either outcome is healthy. Creativity and discipline are not antithetical – creative individuals practice much and work hard – but extensive reliance on overly structured activities can thwart the impulse to create, with negative effects on students’ well-being. Students with high ability should be encouraged to take part in activities that require design, imagination, or invention, and participation in such activities encourages the disposition to create in students.

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The table above shows how to develop creativity and innovation in school education through teachers.

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Creativity and evolution:

If increase in creativity was purely beneficial, it would have certainly been far better promoted in the course of evolution. However, evolutionary development of creative powers had to be matched by the development of executive powers that govern attention. Otherwise side effects of creativity would act as an evolutionary ballast: low-stress tolerance, relationship problems, increased suicide rate, increased divorce rate, risk and novelty seeking, tendency to get bored, increased risk of mental disorders, etc. Creative balance is the key. The evolution of humans suggests that there is a balance between critical thinking and creative thinking, between logic and unpredictable associations, between rationality and fantasy.

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Nature versus nurture vis-à-vis creativity:

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Some of the most interesting work on the neurobiology of creativity is being conducted by Dr. Rosa-Aurora Chavez from the National Institute of Psychiatry in Mexico City. To determine if there was a genetic component to creativity, she took blood samples from 100 recognized artists and scientists. Her findings showed that highly creative individuals had increased expression of specific serotonin transporter gene (5’SLC6A4) and the dopamine receptor gene (DRD4). She then performed functional neuroimaging experiments on a dozen of these creative minds, concluding that creative individuals had significantly higher activation in the right and left cerebellum, frontal and temporal lobes, while they performed creative tasks. Two issues deserve comments. The first is that “increased expression of specific serotonin transporter and dopamine receptor genes” does not always transfer into the same kinds of outward behavior, resulting in behaviors that can be said to be specific to creative individuals. That’s why creativity tests rarely rely on psychological profiling of “typical behaviors.” Highly creative individuals can be found across all segments of psychological profiling tools. That’s why researchers recommend the kind of creativity testing that actually requires that the tests produce some output that can be evaluated as creative or not. A great opportunity for neurobiological research into creativity would be to discover the whole range of ways in which the highly creative people of various personality types express their creativity. The second issue is that the divergence that’s so important in creativity actually has two components — fluency and originality. Fluency is the ability to come up with lots of potential solutions. Originality is the ability to come up with potential solutions that are substantially different from each other yet are still part of a potential solution set, will still solve the problem. I’d like to see neuroimaging data that could pinpoint the differences in brains that are merely fluent with solutions, v/s brains that are adept at truly original thinking.

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Many books on psychology put a substantial emphasis on the nature v/s nurture debate. Psychologists ask which factors are decisive in developing human behavioral characteristics: genetic background or education and upbringing. As far as intelligence is concerned, both genetics and upbringing determine the final outcome. We have not yet recorded a case of a success in science by an individual affected with Down syndrome, i.e. we can easily show that genetics can stifle intellectual development. At the same time, we notice that individuals deprived of education and human contact may be deprived of the ability to read, speak or conduct abstract reasoning, i.e. we can show that lack of education may be equally devastating to the human mind. The power of genetics on the functioning of the brain is illustrated by afflictions such as Down syndrome (mental retardation), dyslexia (reading problems), amusia (problems with recognizing sounds and music), unipolar and bipolar disorders (depression and manic-depressive disorder), and many more. If you look at the human brain from 100,000 years ago, you will not see much difference when compared with today’s brains. Yet training and education, as well as the ability to communicate and work collectively, has lifted the human potential to unimaginable levels.

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So what makes innovators different from the rest of us? The research confirms that creativity skills are not simply genetic traits endowed at birth, but that they can be developed. In fact, the most comprehensive study confirming this was done by a group of researchers, Merton Reznikoff, George Domino, Carolyn Bridges, and Merton Honeymon, who studied creative abilities in 117 pairs of identical and fraternal twins. While testing twins aged 15 to 22, they found that only about 30 per cent of the performance of identical twins on a battery of ten creativity tests could be attributed to genetics. In contrast, roughly 80 per cent to 85 per cent of the twins’ performance on general intelligence (IQ) tests could be attributed to genetics. So general intelligence (at least the way scientists measure it) is basically a genetic endowment, but creativity is not.  Six other creativity studies of identical twins confirm similar result: roughly 25 per cent to 40 per cent of what we do innovatively stems from genetics. That means that roughly two-thirds of our innovation skills still come through learning ­– from first understanding the skill, then practicing it, and ultimately gaining confidence in our capacity to create. I have a different view on this subject. As discussed before by me, cognitive creativity does need critical thinking (logic/intelligence) and since 85 % of intelligence is inherited, I conclude that cognitive creativity is significantly dependent on genes with lesser role of environment. On the other hand, artistic creativity does not need critical convergent thinking and therefore predominantly determined by environment. My life is a classical example of cognitive creativity. I give full marks to my genes for creation of mathematical formula of Pi and Duality of Existence as environment has always been hostile to my creative ideas. I sincerely believe that had I lived in encouraging environment, I would have contributed to the world in much better way. However, I blame nobody.

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Since environment is significantly involved in influencing creativity, a child’s creativity can be either strongly encouraged or discouraged by early experiences at home and in school. Family environments with certain characteristics have been found to be more conducive to creativity than others. One of these characteristics is a relaxed parental attitude rather than one that is overly anxious or authoritarian. On the whole, the families of creative children discipline them without rigid restrictions, teaching them respect for values above rules. Similarly, they emphasize achievement rather than grades. The parents in such homes generally lead active, fulfilling lives themselves and have many interests. Finally, they reinforce creativity in their children by a general attitude of respect and confidence toward them and by actively encouraging creative pursuits and praising the results. It has been found that creativity in both children and adults is affected by positive reinforcement. Devising restrictive guidelines or instructions for an activity reduces its potential as a creative experience. Unrestricted, imaginative play is central to creativity in children—exposure to new objects and activities stimulates the senses, reinforces exploratory impulses, and results in the openness to new experiences and ideas that foster creative thinking. In addition, anything that takes the focus away from the creative act itself and toward something external to it can be damaging. For example, knowing that one’s efforts are going to be evaluated tends to restrict the creative impulse, as does knowing of the possibility of a prize or other reward.

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Creativity and sleep:

Insight denotes a mental restructuring that leads to a sudden gain of explicit knowledge allowing qualitatively changed behavior. Sleep consolidates recent memories and, concomitantly, could allow insight by changing their representational structure. A study concluded that sleep, by restructuring new memory representations, facilitates extraction of explicit knowledge and insightful behavior.  REM sleep rather than NREM sleep aids this process. This has been suggested due to changes in cholinergic and noradrenergic neuromodulation that occurs during REM sleep. During this period of sleep, high levels of acetylcholine in the hippocampus suppress feedback from the hippocampus to the neocortex, and lower levels of acetylcholine and norepinephrine in the neocortex encourage the spread of associational activity within neocortical areas without control from the hippocampus. This is in contrast to waking consciousness, where higher levels of norepinephrine and acetylcholine inhibit recurrent connections in the neocortex. It is proposed that REM sleep would add creativity by allowing  neocortical structures to reorganize associative hierarchies, in which information from the hippocampus would be reinterpreted in relation to previous semantic representations or nodes. REM enhances the integration of unassociated information for creative problem solving, a process, that is facilitated by cholinergic and noradrenergic neuromodulation during REM sleep. So REM sleep is responsible for association of unrelated memories in illogical way (dream) because logic comes from cognition of wakeful state. However, when you wake up from sleep and do remember association of unrelated memories (dream) and add logic, you may come up with creative idea. A study conducted on this subject found that about 1 in 5 respondents volunteered have associated creative outlets like drawing, painting, poetry, etc with dreams. For about half of them, dreams help with some creative activity that exists more or less independent of the interest in dreams. With the other half, dreams are directly responsible for becoming creative, usually to express the dream. Again I want to emphasize the fact that artistic creativity does not need logic and therefore dreams can directly promote artistic creativity in contrast to cognitive creativity.

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A 2004 study in Nature (Vol. 427, No. 6,972) shows just how powerful sleep may be in helping people solve problems. Researchers at the University of Lübeck in Germany trained participants to solve a long, tedious math problem. Eight hours later, when participants returned for retesting, those who had slept during the break were more than twice as likely to figure out a simpler way to solve the problem than those who had not slept.  

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Creativity and mood:

Note: Disturbances of mood as mental disorder and its relationship with creativity already discussed. Now I will discuss disturbance of mood in normal people vis-à-vis creativity.

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If goofing off at the office makes people happy, it may result in more innovative thinking. That is one of the implications of a new study that suggests upbeat work environments can improve creativity. The work settings can put people in a good mood so they can then think more creatively. Generally, positive mood has been found to enhance creative problem-solving and flexible yet careful thinking. We believe that our brain always performs best when content and carefree. According to researchers, positive emotions increase the number of cognitive elements available for association (attention scope) and the number of elements that are relevant to the problem (cognitive scope). A Meta-Analysis of 25 Years of Mood–Creativity Research of 62 experimental and 10 non-experimental studies was conducted to evaluate the relationship between mood and creativity. The analysis revealed that positive moods produce more creativity than mood-neutral controls, but no significant differences between negative moods and mood-neutral controls or between positive and negative mood were observed. Creativity is enhanced most by positive mood states that are activating and associated with an approach motivation and promotion focus (e.g., happiness), rather than those that are deactivating and associated with an avoidance motivation and prevention focus (e.g., relaxed). Negative, deactivating moods with an approach motivation and a promotion focus (e.g., sadness) were not associated with creativity, but negative, activating moods with an avoidance motivation and a prevention focus (fear, anxiety) were associated with lower creativity, especially when assessed as cognitive flexibility. With a few exceptions, these results generalized across experimental and correlational designs, populations (students vs. general adult population), and facet of creativity (e.g., fluency, flexibility, originality, eureka/insight). In general, a contextual perspective of mood-creativity relations is supported. On the other hand, Indiana University study found that people who are happy choose creative activities strategically in the interest of maintaining or improving their mood. Their unhappy counterparts want to improve their moods, too, but they have a bigger selection of activities — not all creative — from which to choose.

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However, a study found contrary. This study asked subjects to give a short speech about their dream job. The students were randomly assigned to either a positive or negative feedback condition, in which their speech was greeted with smiles and vertical nods (positive) or frowns and horizontal shakes (negative). After the speech was over, the subjects were given glue, paper and colored felt and told to make a collage using the materials. Professional artists then evaluated each collage according to various metrics of creativity. Not surprisingly, the feedback impacted the mood of the subjects: Those who received smiles during their speeches reported feeling better than before, while frowns had the opposite effect. What’s interesting is what happened next: Subjects in the negative feedback condition created much prettier collages. Their angst led to better art. This is largely because the sadness improved their focus, and made them more likely to persist with the creative challenge.  Previous research has shown that negative feedback can lead to increased subsequent effort, as long as the task is not perceived as too difficult to be mastered. This is consistent with research indicating that when individuals experience negative affect in a situation that requires creativity, this negative affect may be interpreted as a signal that additional effort must be exerted for a creative solution to be discovered. In contrast, positive mood coupled with a situation that requires creativity may be an indication that the creative goal has been met, reducing the amount of effort exerted on the task. These group of researchers have a different logic as follows: Managers seeking to bolster creativity in their employees, schoolteachers desiring to elevate creative problem solving among their pupils, and parents trying to bring out the artistic talents in their children; all need to fit their mood inductions to the ways in which they frame the tasks their employees, pupils, and children perform. Increasing feelings of happiness and joy are unlikely to produce creativity when the task is framed as “serious business on which your annual bonus (or your final grade, or your pocket money) substantially depends.” It would be much better to match such induced feelings of happiness and joy to framing the task as “enjoyable and interesting to do.” However, when employees are feeling grumpy, when pupils are having a bad hair day, or when children are struck by winter depression, framing the task as serious and consequential to extrinsic rewards may actually help elevate their level of creativity.        

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Creativity and age:

Einstein and Newton proposed their revolutionary theories when they were in their twenties. The Lehman study published in 1953 under the title “Age and Achievement” examined the variation of creative output in many different artists over their lifetimes. It revealed a creative “age curve” showing productivity beginning to increase when the artist is in his or her twenties, peaking in the late thirties to mid-forties, and declining thereafter. The study has been criticized because it ignored certain influential factors; for example the early deaths of many of the artists. In addition, Lehman evaluated creative product and not creative potential.

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If the prefrontal cortex is, as proposed in this article (vide infra), the pivotal neural structure mediating creative behavior, creativity ought to be closely related to prefrontal cortex development across the life span. The prefrontal cortex is the last structure to develop phylogenically and ontogenically. In humans, it does not fully mature until the early 20s. This conforms to frequent claims and might well be the underlying reason why the creativity of children is less structured and appropriate. Likewise, empirical evidence suggests that prefrontal functions are among the first to deteriorate in old age. Consequently, one would expect creative achievement to peak in mid-life at the height of prefrontal capacity. It is remarkable that revolutionary advances in science, as opposed to paradigmatic or normal science, particularly in theoretical physics, are predominantly made by individuals in their 20s or individuals very near career onset. A long list of eminent physicists including Bohr, Chadwick, Einstein, Fermi, Feynman, Gell-Mann, Heisenberg, Pauli, and Rutherford seem to exemplify this most strikingly. This curiosity is known as the Planck hypothesis, which states that younger scientists are more receptive to innovation. Even more curious is the observation that scientists who made major, revolutionary contributions early in their careers rarely made a second one of equal impact at an advanced career age, suggesting that age rather than individual differences is the responsible variable. In music, on the other hand, creative achievement peaks early and can be sustained until old age. It has been proposed that creativity is stochastic in nature and that creativity in the arts and sciences “differ in the extent to which that stochastic process is constrained”. In either discipline, the start of creativity coincides with the maturation of the prefrontal cortex. However, a major difference between music and physics is that the latter requires constant adaptation to a new set of rules. Also, music is artistic creativity while physics is cognitive creativity. Reduced cognition in elderly will reduce cognitive creativity e.g. ability to enunciate revolutionary scientific theory, but since artistic creativity does not need cognition, elderly can compose music or make painting.

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Scientists readily admit that the brain loses about 10 percent of its weight due to cell death and atrophy due to ageing but the average brain also contains more neurons than it can use in a normal life span. If there is, as it appears, a large excess reserve in brain function, then even a 10 percent decrease in brain weight may be negligible. The speed with which our brains process information may decline with age but our knowledge and our skill in using a lifetime of acquired information does not.

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Marion Diamond, neuroanatomist at the University of California at Berkley, has done some research on the role of the brain’s glial cells. One function of these cells is to support and nourish the neighboring neurons. But there appear to be a greater number of glia in the more creative brains among us. It is uncertain whether these special cells increase as a result of the creative use of the mind throughout a lifetime or whether they are simply present in greater quantities in certain gifted minds at birth, but either way it is clear that they remain nearly unaffected by age. They are able to divide and renew their numbers (something that the age susceptible neurons can’t do) and Diamond has discovered them in great density in her recent study of a portion of Albert Einstein’s highly creative brain, meaning that they were thriving when he died in his late seventies. She and some other researchers concur that the brain’s “wonderful plasticity remains throughout life.” However, many other researchers believe that brain’s plasticity decline in elderly people. In my article on “the sleep”, I have shown that reduced brain plasticity in elderly is responsible for sleep disturbances of elderly. As already discussed before, sleep disturbance does affect creativity.   

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Research findings indicate that older people consistently out-perform younger people on the wisdom scale. It would appear that wisdom and experience, two hallmarks of the mid-life to late-life period, might contribute much to the mind’s ability to find order in chaos thus fashioning new models of creative expression.

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Studies have shown that not only is creativity a life-long potential, it may be as life extending as healthy exercise. In 1972 Dawson and Baller published the results of a study in which an elderly group of subjects were taught oil painting for 18 weeks and compared with another group of similar age that received no instruction. Two years after the instruction 72% of the experimental group was still painting. A follow-up analysis ten years later revealed that 67% of the instructed group were still living compared with only 38% of the control group; 100% of the surviving experimental subjects were mentally alert as compared with only 62% of the living control subjects; and all of the experimental group were still physically active while 38% of the control group were confined to bed. The obvious therapeutic value of creative activity cannot easily be overlooked. Perhaps one day the encouragement of artistic expression will be the prescription of choice for curing the ailments of age. To put it differently, creativity promotes longevity. The only exception would be creative individual with mental disorders committing suicides.

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Simonton (1997) has convincingly demonstrated that “creative productivity is a function of career age, not chronological age”. Although career age and chronological age are highly correlated, latecomers to a discipline show the same career trajectories and landmarks, as well as conformity to the 10-year rule. For instance, mathematicians peak on average at 26.5 years of career age, while historians peak at 38.5. Because prefrontal-dependent mental functions do not significantly decline until old age, the distinction between chronological and career age can be accommodated as long as the creator’s career onset is not at an advanced chronological age. In such a case, the career trajectory might be altered due to the premature (in terms of career age) decline in prefrontal functions, even if the creator lives until very old age. 

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Creativity and gender:

Einstein, Edison, Newton all were men. Most of the fundamental research, invention and creativity are exhibited by men rather than women. In a study of almost 1,000 Hong Kong children from the 5th through 7th grades, researchers found that while boys and girls had similar means on all ten sub-scales of creativity, the variation for boys was significantly higher for the overall score and for five out of ten sub-scale scores. Boys were particularly diverse on the boundary-breaking sub-scales. These findings are similar to IQ research which shows higher variation among males. More of the dummies and the uncreative are found among boys, but so are geniuses and the highly creative. This lab research is consistent with history which is a tale of male accomplishment.

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The importance of examining creativity in relation to gender is based primarily on the sociocultural differences among girls and boys. Traditionally, girls in our society have been encouraged to conform, whereas boys are expected to be active and dominant risk-takers. Furthermore, researchers acknowledge that most boys are provided with toys that enhance their visual-spatial abilities, such as trucks, Legos, and models, while the games of girls are often highly structured requiring turn-taking and rules. Social expectations and conformity pressures may create “cultural blocks” to creativity in girls. Inconsistent findings have been discovered on gender differences and creativity in various studies. While other factors such as birth order, socioeconomic status, teaching strategies, grade level, achievement, and IQ have been explored in regards to creativity, few studies have examined gender differences in creativity among a single cultural group. So a study was conducted to determine Gender differences in creativity among American Indian Third and Fourth Grade Students. Findings from this study are consistent with those of others (Flaherty, 1992; Boling & Boling, 1993; Kogan, 1974; Coone, 1969; Warren and Luria, 1972; & Dudek, Stobel, & Runco, 1993). Girls obtained higher scores than boys across all subtests with significant differences in Originality and Creative Index scores. One hypothesis is that girls are innately more creative than boys but their creativity is suppressed due to cultural block of conformity which is most expected from girls rather than boys. One example is sufficient. Parents are not upset if son comes home late at night but they will be disturbed if daughter comes home late at night.

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Creativity and race:

IQs for the major races have been compiled from approximately 550 studies and are given in Lynn (2006). The estimated average IQ of the North East Asians (the Classical Mongoloids of China, Korea and Japan) is 105, the European Caucasoids 99, the South Asian and North African Caucasoids 84, South East Asians 87, the Native American Indians 86, the sub-Saharan Africans 67, the Australian Aborigines 62 and Kalahari Bushmen 54. These race differences in IQ are highly correlated with differences in scores on standardized international assessments of mathematics and science proficiency obtained by 9- and 13-year-old students. In general, these IQ differences are consistent with the contributions the races have made to creative achievements in science, mathematics and technology. The North East Asians and the Europeans are the two races that have made most of the contributions to creative achievement, with some lesser contribution from the South Asians and North Africans, the South East Asians, and the Native American Indians. Very little contribution has been made by the sub-Saharan Africans, the Australian Aborigines and the Kalahari Bushmen. Despite these general consistencies, there is an inconsistency between the North East Asians’ high IQs & strong school performance in mathematics and science, and their lesser creative achievements in the arts and sciences, as compared with the Europeans. Despite their impressive technological advances, the North East Asians have never quite matched the Europeans at the highest level of creative achievement.  97 per cent of significant creative achievements have been made by Europeans in last 5 centuries. How can we explain why the Europeans have been so preeminent in creative achievement although they have a lower average IQ and lower school performance in mathematics and science than the North East Asians? It would seem that the Europeans must have some advantage that the North East Asians lack. It has sometimes been suggested that the answer to this question is that the North East Asians are more conformist and this inhibits creative work, which inevitably involves dissent or departure from social norms and accepted modes of thought. For example, in China, there is scarcely any tradition of reasoned discourse between two individuals in order to approach clarity or truth; and wherever there is disagreement between a master and his disciple, the outcome is predetermined. The master has always had the last, triumphant word, while his disciple was reduced to silence. Similar characteristic is also found in other North East Asians (Japan, Korea). Now whether the conformity of the North East Asians appears more of a racial characteristic than a cultural is a matter of debate but this conformity is responsible for less creativity as compared to Europeans who are highly non-conformist. Also, European peoples are “individualistic” while North East Asian peoples are “collectivist”.  In collectivist North East Asian cultures, individuals subordinate their personal goals to collective ones … whereas in the individualistic West, most individuals are seen as separate and autonomous and they live their lives in accordance with personal goals. The North East Asian subordination of personal goals to collective ones is not conducive to creative achievement, for which it is necessary to put personal goals first. Thus, the individualistic personality that is more characteristic of the Europeans is more likely to promote creative achievement. This is one reason that individuals who grow up in societies that promote community over individualism, and hierarchy over merit – such as Japan, China, Korea, and many Arab nations – are less likely to creatively challenge the status quo and turn out innovations (or win Nobel prizes). Also, religion plays part in creativity. For example Islam, which is a conformist religion in a sense that anybody thinking out of box will be considered blasphemous, does hinder creativity among Muslims.

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The most important and most obvious corollary to above discussion is that you do need high IQ for cognitive creativity. Europeans and North East Asian races have made most contribution to creative achievements and innovation because these races have high IQs. Now to say that intelligence and creativity are different unrelated abilities is irrational. Yes, for artistic creativity you do not need high IQ but even there, a moron cannot compose music or make a painting.

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Another important corollary to above discussion is discovery of reason why communism collapsed in eastern Europe/Russia while still going strong in China & North Korea. Since generally speaking, people belonging to European race are non-conformist as compared to North East Asians, communism collapsed in eastern Europe with German unification (fall of Berlin wall) while there is hardly any hope of Korean unification. In fact, communism, conformist mind-set and paucity of creativity go hand in hand. I expect research output of democratic Russia greater than communist Soviet Union.  

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Einstein’s brain:

Scientists have studied Einstein’s brain to look for the clues as to his genius. On cursory examination, they could hardly find any. Later it transpired that some areas of his brain were indeed better developed and nourished by a rich fabric of glial cells, i.e. brain cells that are among others, responsible for the right environment for neurons to work in. Yet it is difficult to predicate as to whether all these differences were inborn or were rather a result of his training in abstract thinking. Anatomical studies show that various areas of the human brain may substantially differ in size between individuals. Yet it is not easy to find correlations between these difference and mental powers. In people with a normal range of IQ, the volume of cerebral cortex may vary twice between one person and the next. Also, bigger men have bigger brains but are not smarter. The left inferior-parietal lobule (located just above the level of the ears in the parietal cortex) is larger in men, and was also found to be larger in Einstein’s brain as well as in the brains of mathematicians and physicists. On the other hand, the two language area of the cortex: Broca and Wernicke areas are larger in women, which may explain why women might be superior in language processing and verbal tasks.

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Neurobiology of creativity:

Creativity is the fountainhead of human civilizations. All progress and innovation depend on our ability to change existing thinking patterns, break with the present, and build something new. Given the central importance of this most extraordinary capacity of the human mind, one would think that the underlying neurocognitive mechanisms of creative thinking are the subject of intense research efforts in the behavioral and brain sciences. To study creative ideas, and how and where they arise in the brain, is to approach a defining element of what makes us human. Furthermore, by identifying the basic principles of our ingenuity, researchers might be able to enhance this process in the future, with potentially enormous benefits for society. 

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The human brain is bifurcated down the middle into two parts, popularly known as the left brain and the right brain respectively. They are connected to each other by a thick cable of nerves at the base of each brain. This sole link between the two giant processors is called the corpus collosum. The left side of our body is “wired” to the right side of our brain, and vice versa. For whatever reason nature did this cross-over, it applies even to our eyes, which process a majority of their sensory data on opposite sides of the brain. Left brain controls movement of right side of body and right brain controls movement of left side of body. We also know that different parts of the brain control different bodily and mental functions. Over the years, a theory that has gained in popularity is that the right brain and the left brain are responsible for different modes of thought and that the way in which a person thinks will depend on which side of his brain predominates. People who rely more heavily on the right half of their brain tend to be more imaginative and intuitive. They see things as a whole and are interested in patterns, shapes and sizes. The right brain is associated with artistic ability like singing, painting, writing poetry, etc. Left-brain dominated people may find their thought processes vague and difficult to follow, for they are quite opposite in the way they think. Left-brain dominated people tend to be more logical and analytical in their thinking and usually excel at mathematics and word skills. Right brain and left brain dominated people can also be categorized as divergent and convergent thinkers respectively. A convergent thinker has a systematic approach and plays by the rules. He analyzes everything and reaches a logical conclusion. Thus, scientific and mathematical activities are more up his street. Such people do very well on straightforward question and answer type tests. Divergent thinkers, on the other hand, are creative and tend to throw the rules out of the window. They are artistic and always looking for ways to express themselves. They do much better in exams that require essay-type answers. But this does not mean that a person who is left or right brain dominated does not use the other part of his brain. For most people, the two parts of the brain work in tandem to enable them to function as well-rounded personalities.

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We can thank Nobel Prize Winner (1981) Roger Sperry for this next contribution. Sperry conducted what are sometimes called the “split-brain” experiments. Here’s how it went: A patient suffering from uncontrolled seizures had an area of his brain removed by surgery in an attempt to control his illness. This area just happened to be the corpus collosum, which was suspected of having developed lesions (short circuits).  Following his surgery, Sperry’s patient seemed completely normal — almost. A series of tests were conducted where each “half” of the patient was isolated from the other. Different visual and tactile information could then be presented to the patient’s left or right side, without the other side knowing. The results were astounding. With their communications link severed, each side of the patient’s brain was functioning independently. Although this did not prevent his ability to walk, talk and eat, some unexpected findings were encountered in some of the higher brain functions when each side was examined independently of the other. The right hand and eye could name an object, such as a pencil, but the patient could not explain what it was used for. When shown to the left hand and eye, the patient could explain and demonstrate its use, but could not name it. The main theme to emerge… is that there appear to be two modes of thinking, verbal and nonverbal, represented rather separately in left and right hemispheres respectively and that our education system, as well as science in general, tends to neglect the nonverbal form of intellect. What it comes down to is that modern society discriminates against the right hemisphere.

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LEFT BRAIN FUNCTIONS RIGHT BRAIN FUNCTIONS
Uses logic Uses feelings
Detail oriented “Big picture” oriented
Facts rule Imagination rules
Words and language Symbols and images
Present and past Present and future
Math and science Philosophy and religion
Can comprehend Can “get it” (i.e. meaning)
Knowing Believes
Acknowledges Appreciates
Order/pattern perception Spatial perception
Knows object name Knows object function
Reality based Fantasy based
Form strategies Presents possibilities
Practical Impetuous
Safe Risk taking

 

Our personality can be thought of as a result of the degree to which these left and right brains interact, or, in some cases, do not interact. It is a simplification to identify “left brain” types who are very analytical and orderly. We likewise certainly know of the artistic, unpredictability and creativity of “right brain” types. But each of us draws upon specific sides of our brain for a variety of daily functions, depending on such things as our age, education and life experiences. The choice of which brain is in control of which situations is what forges our personalities and determines our character. Experiments show that most children rank highly creative (right brain) before entering school. Because our educational systems place a higher value on left brain skills such as mathematics, logic and language than it does on drawing or using our imagination, only ten percent of these same children will rank highly creative by age 7. By the time we are adults, high creativity remains in only 2 percent of the population.

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Sperry discovered that the human brain has two very different ways of thinking. One (the right brain) is visual and processes information in an intuitive and simultaneous way, looking first at the whole picture then the details. The other (the left brain) is verbal and processes information in an analytical and sequential way, looking first at the pieces then putting them together to get the whole. Sperry was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1981, although subsequent research has shown that things aren’t quite as polarized as once thought (nor as simple). But, this picture changed dramatically as soon as brain-scanning experiments began to show that both sides of the brain played an active role in such processes. Rather, it seemed to be the processing styles that distinguished the two halves. Under the scanner, language turned out to be represented on both sides of the brain, in matching areas of the cortex. Areas on the left dealt with the core aspects of speech such as grammar and word production, while aspects such as intonation and emphasis lit up the right side. In the same way, the right brain proved to be good at working with a general sense of space, while equivalent areas in the left brain fired when someone thought about objects at particular locations.

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Many researchers have concluded that creativity is a mental process utilizing all of the brain’s specialized capabilities. It is, therefore, “whole brained.”

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The upper (cerebral) left A Analytical, mathematical, technical and problem solving.
The lower (limbic) left B Controlled, conservative, planned, organized and administrative in nature.
The lower (limbic) right C Interpersonal, emotional, musical, spiritual and the “talker” modes.
 Upper (cerebral) right D Imaginative, synthesizing, artistic, holistic and conceptual modes.

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FOUR QUADRANTS define not only the left brain (A, B) and right brain (C, D) modes but also the cerebral (A, D) and limbic (B, C) modes. There are four main structures in the brain with a “thinking like” cortex. Two of them are the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere. The other two are the left half of the limbic system and the right half of the limbic system. The limbic system is a bilateral complex of specialized structures that deal with such processes as memory, emotion, sequence, time, fight or flight and sensory responses. The principal limbic elements, each with its own cortex, are the hippocampus, the thalamus and the amygdala. Just as the two hemispheres are hardwired together by the corpus callosum, the two halves of the limbic system are similarly joined by the hippocampal commissure. From a left brain/right brain perspective, the creative process can be diagnosed as follows: Interest (left and right), preparation (left), incubation (right), illumination (right), verification (left) application (left and right). It is a balanced process. In summary, the role of the right hemisphere is essential to the creative process. But it supplies only a quarter of the thinking needed to realize the full creative process. We also need the left hemisphere and both halves of the limbic system to optimize creative output.  

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Latent inhibition:

The study in the September issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology says the brains of creative people appear to be more open to incoming stimuli from the surrounding environment. Other people’s brains might shut out this same information through a process called “latent inhibition” – defined as an animal’s unconscious capacity to ignore stimuli that experience has shown are irrelevant to its needs. Through psychological testing, the researchers showed that creative individuals are much more likely to have low levels of latent inhibition. This means that creative individuals remain in contact with the extra information constantly streaming in from the environment. The normal person classifies an object, and then forgets about it, even though that object is much more complex and interesting than he or she thinks. The creative person, by contrast, is always open to new possibilities.  Previously, scientists have associated failure to screen out stimuli with psychosis. However, researchers hypothesized that it might also contribute to original thinking, especially when combined with high IQ. They administered tests of latent inhibition to Harvard undergraduates. Those classified as eminent creative achievers – participants under age 21 who reported unusually high scores in a single area of creative achievement – were seven times more likely to have low latent inhibition scores. The researchers hypothesize that latent inhibition may be positive when combined with high intelligence and good working memory – the capacity to think about many things at once – but negative otherwise. Researchers say that if you are open to new information, new ideas, you better be able to intelligently and carefully edit and choose. If you have 50 ideas, only two or three are likely to be good. You have to be able to discriminate or you’ll get swamped. Scientists have wondered for a long time why madness and creativity seem linked. It appears likely that low levels of latent inhibition and exceptional flexibility in thought might predispose to mental illness under some conditions and to creative accomplishment under others. For example, during the early stages of diseases such as schizophrenia, which are often accompanied by feelings of deep insight, mystical knowledge and religious experience, chemical changes take place in which latent inhibition disappears. Latent inhibition is identified as not only one of the biological bases of creativity but may be involved in mysterious relationship between genius, madness and the doors of perception.

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The researchers suggest that “creative innovation might require coactivation and communication between regions of the brain that ordinarily are not strongly connected”.  Highly creative people who excel at creative innovation tend to differ from others in three ways:

1) They have a high level of specialized knowledge.

2) They are capable of divergent thinking mediated by the frontal lobe.

3) They are able to modulate neurotransmitters in their frontal lobe.

Thus, the frontal lobe appears to be the part of the cortex that is most important for creativity because it is involved in association of remote unrelated ideas. A creative idea will be defined simply as one that is both novel and useful (or influential) in a particular social setting. Researchers are concerned that any neurological model of creativity should focus not just on artistic outlets (such as painting and music) but encompass other domains, such as language and mathematics. Such a model is necessarily going to have to involve a network of brain regions, rather than be localized to one part of the brain or one hemisphere. In 2005, Alice Flaherty presented three-factor model of the creative drive drawing from evidence in brain imaging, drug studies and lesion analysis. She described the creative drive as resulting from an interaction of the frontal lobes, the temporal lobes, and dopamine from the limbic system. The frontal lobes can be seen as responsible for idea generation, and the temporal lobes for idea editing and evaluation. Temporal lobe deficits can increase the generation of creative ideas, sometimes at the expense of quality, as in various manic states. In contrast, frontal lobe deficits can inhibit creative thinking. Abnormalities in the frontal lobe (such as depression or anxiety) generally decrease creativity, while abnormalities in the temporal lobe often increase creativity. High activity in the temporal lobe typically inhibits activity in the frontal lobe, and vice versa. Thus via mutually inhibitory pathways, the frontal and temporal lobes work together to not simply generate ideas but those that are “novel and useful”–creative ideas. In addition to the fronto-temporal network, another brain system is also critical for creative expression: the dopamine pathways of the subcortical limbic system (which also have strong connections to parts of the frontal lobe). High dopamine levels increase general arousal and goal directed behaviors and reduce latent inhibition, and all three effects increase the drive to generate ideas. The evidence for the involvement in dopamine in creativity comes primarily from drug studies: dopamine agonists (such as cocaine and levodopa) heighten arousal and goal-seeking behaviors while dopamine antagonists (such as antipsychotics) can shut down the free associations that may be necessary for creativity.  Research suggests that these results strongly suggest that creativity in the brain does not depend on a specific region or hemisphere but on a dispersed network of brain regions. Being creative is not a passive process, and creative people are more responsive to sensory stimulation, have higher baseline levels of arousal, and increased goal-directed behavior.    

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The table below shows conditions in which altered creative outputs are associated with temporal, limbic, and frontal changes.

Condition Behavioral Evidence Physiological Evidence
Temporal Lobe
Temporal lobe epilepsy Hypergraphia, viscosity EEG, MRI, PET, lesion studies
Hypo/mania, mixed states Pressured speech & writing; muse experiences fMRI, EEG, PET
Wernicke’s aphasia Pressured speech Lesion studies
Other temporal lobe lesions Hypomania and mania Lesion studies
Frontotemporal dementia Pressured artistic and musical expression SPECT, PET, MRI, fMRI
Command hallucinations Auditory hallucinations/muse experiences fMRI, TMS
Metaphorical thinking Tendency to analogies, associative thinking Lesion studies
Limbic/Dopaminergic
Levodopa, DA agonists High productivity/drive, lower latent inhibition Drug studies, PET receptor binding
DA antagonists Decreased drives and creativity Patient reports, receptor binding studies
Psychosis Hallucinations/muse experiences DA agonists cause, antagonists treat
Psychostimulant use High productivity/punding, lower latent inhibition Drug studies, PET receptor binding
Nonspecific arousal Exercise, phototherapy, Mozart effect raise creativity
Frontal Lobe
Depression Self-critical, low energy and output fMRI, PET, lesion studies
Anxiety Self-critical, “stage fright” inhibits output fMRI, PET, lesion studies
Broca’s aphasia Frustrated awareness of speech production deficit Lesion analysis
Other frontal lobe lesions Abulic mutism, perseveration, solution fix Lesion analysis
Normal/creative subjects Tests of idea fluency f MRI
Writers/musicians cramp Focal dystonia from stressed practice fMRI, PET
Metonymical thinking Organization by spatial/temporal sequence Poor in frontal lesions, depression, block
Antidepressants Improve depression and secondary block fMRI, PET
Electromagnetic stimulation Increased productivity, creativity DBS, TMS

Abbreviations: DA = dopamine, EEG = electroencephalogram, fMRI = functional MRI, PET = positron emission tomography, SPECT = single photon emission computed tomography, TMS = transcranial magnetic stimulation.

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Creative subjects have higher baseline levels of arousal and greater response to sensory stimulation. Dopamine decreases latent inhibition, a behavioral index of the ability to habituate to sensations. Low latent inhibition can flood an organism with stimuli, and is seen in psychosis. But low latent inhibition is also characteristic of creative individuals with high intelligence. It may be that highly intelligent subjects can find patterns in what would otherwise be a disorienting barrage of sense data. Dopamine does not merely raise baseline arousal. The focused aspect of creative drive, its high goal directedness, may be driven by mesolimbic dopaminergic activity

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The picture above shows sketch of the brain pathways involved in creative drive. On the left is the left lateral view of the brain showing cortico-cortical connection between frontal and temporal lobes whose net effect is mutually inhibitory. On the right is the medial surface of brain showing mesolimbic dopaminergic projections which facilitate creativity through driving goal-directed behavior and decreasing latent inhibitions. There is enough evidence for a three-factor anatomical model of creative drive coordinating frontal, temporal, and limbic systems. The frontotemporal interactions are probably mediated by mutually inhibitory corticocortical projections, whereas the limbic contribution is likely to be primarily dopaminergic.

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Whereas dopamine agonists can induce hypomania and hallucinations, the dopamine antagonists, generally used as antipsychotics, are notorious for their ability to suppress not only hallucinations and stereotypies but also creativity. Indeed, because dopamine is involved in so many functions, therapies for certain dopamine-related disorders can cause side effects in seemingly unrelated areas. For example, Parkinson’s disease results from insufficient dopamine activity, but treatments that raise dopamine levels can cause other problems, such as pathological gambling, compulsive shopping, binge eating and other impulse control disorders. Temporal lobe changes, as in hypergraphia, often increase idea generation, sometimes at the expense of quality. Frontal lobe deficits may decrease idea generation, in part because of rigid judgments about an idea’s worth. These phenomena are clearest in verbal creativity, and roughly parallel the pressured communication of temporal lobe epilepsy, mania, and Wernicke’s aphasia—compared to the sparse speech and cognitive inflexibility of depression, Broca’s aphasia, and other frontal lobe lesions.

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Schizophrenia/psychosis as many will know from their elementary neuroscience knowledge is associated with dopamine dysfunction; specifically it is found that high baseline dopamine levels are there in schizophrenics/psychotics. It is already discussed before that possibly higher dopamine levels are associated with high creativity. However, dopamine has shown an inverse U relationship with many other factors and thus researchers were cautious and tried to fit both linear and quadratic graphs to their data.

The picture above shows inverse U shaped relationship between dopamine level and creativity (divergent thinking).

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The main finding of interest to us is that researchers found an inverse U shaped relation between dopamine and flexibility dimension for divergent thinking. This effect was present even when the effect of intelligence was factored out. Thus both low dopamine, as well as too much dopamine is detrimental to flexible divergent thinking/creativity; and schizotypals placed precariously between normals and psychotics, are best placed to be the most creative as they presumably have the optimum dopamine levels. The researchers also argue that schizophrenics dopamine levels should not be brought down indiscreetly by using anti-psychotics (which reduce dopamine levels) but they should be brought in the optimum range of dopamine functioning. This obviously has immense importance and treatment implications. No wonder creative people feel stiffed when on anti-psychotics as their dopamine levels are being brought down way too much.

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A much more common complaint than excessive creative drive is its lack. Is creative block caused by an increase in temporal lobe activity, and creative drive caused by its decrease? Probably not. There seems to be a better correlation between frontal lobe malfunction and creative block. Evidence comes from several conditions associated both with frontal lobe dysfunction and with creative block. Since the frontal and temporal lobes are to a first approximation mutually inhibitory, creative block and pressured output do not usually occur together. They can, however—as in the highly repetitive hypergraphia of some epileptics.

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The picture above shows graphic representation of interaction between frontal, temporal and dopaminergic system in idea generation. Creative drive increases with abnormalities of temporal lobe function and increasing dopaminergic tone. Creative block increases with abnormalities of frontal lobe function and decreasing dopaminergic tone.

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Is it a neurobiological contradiction or else?

As discussed in “creativity and mental illness”, creative individuals have a lower density of specific receptors in their brains for dopamine, called D2 receptors (as measured by Positron Emission Tomography, and the radioligands), in a region called the thalamus, than did less creative people meaning a lower degree of signal filtering at thalamus, and thus a higher flow of information from the thalamus, and this could be a possible mechanism behind the ability of healthy highly creative people to see numerous uncommon connections in a problem-solving situation. On the other hand, higher dopamine level in mesolimbic system suppresses latent inhibition increasing creative drive. So low dopamine and high dopamine both stimulate creative drive. Does that mean that neurobiological research is fallible?  Or is it inverse U shaped relationship between dopamine level and creativity as discussed earlier?  Or is it “Duality of Existence” at chemical level? The same dopamine at low level or high level stimulates creativity depending on location of dopaminergic activities at different neuron circuits in brain. We need more research.  

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Many techniques, including functional brain imaging and lesion analysis, have demonstrated frontal deficits in depression. During depression, motivation and cognitive flexibility decrease, as do goal-directed activities such as eating and sex. Although creative subjects paradoxically more often have a history of depression than the average, their creative work is not done during their depressions, but in rebound periods of increased energy between depressions. When depression is treated, frontal lobe function normalizes on functional imaging. Creative block usually improves as normal levels of motivation return. Also, Anxiety is another condition that, like depression, shows frontal lobe changes in a number of paradigms, and anxiety is highly associated with creative block. Depression is associated with low levels of nor-epinephrine (NE), and NE levels increase with manic episodes. In schizophrenia, NE and dopamine levels are likewise increased during psychotic episodes.

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The locus coeruleus (LC) is the site of nor-epinephrine (NE) synthesis the brain, in addition to a smaller level of NE production occurring in the lateral tegmental regions. From the production site in the caudal region of the pons, NE neurons innervate each of the brain cortices in addition to the hypothalamus, cerebellum, and spinal cord. This widely distributed network of fibers has been traditionally studied behaviorally in terms of attention, arousal, and mood. Broadly speaking, each of these psychological components associated with NE activity has also been given attention in the creativity literature. The noradrenergic system has been extensively studied for its effects on emotion, behavior, cognition, and physiological states. The system’s most general, overall salient role can be seen as addressing vigilance, arousal and regulating attention resources. In a series of several tasks testing creative and intellectual abilities, researchers showed that EEG alpha activity (arising from the thalamus and occurring at approximately 8–14 Hz.) increased in a group of creative subjects compared to subjects exhibiting low to medium levels of creative ability.  Scientists have shown that highly creative people have different brain waves from normal and non-creative people. In order to have a creative inspiration, your brain needs to be able to generate a big burst of Alpha brain waves, mostly on the left side of the brain. The brains of creative people can generate these big Alpha brain wave bursts, and do so when they are faced with problems to solve. Normal and non-creative people do not produce Alpha brainwave increases when they are faced with problems, and so they cannot come up with creative ideas and solutions. Any time you have an insight or an inspiration, you know your brain just produced more Alpha waves than usual The highest increase in alpha wave activity occurred while solving items in the Alternate Uses Task which required subjects to determine alternate uses for common objects. This is a more pure measure of creativity than either the Remote Associations Test (which requires subjects to determine a single common associate to three loosely connected words) or general intellectual ability tests that were used in addition to assess differences across abilities. Interestingly, EEG α wave activity is associated with decreased arousal, as it is an inverse measure of the general cortical arousal response. It has also been shown that EEG α relative activity is directly correlated with changes in cerebrospinal levels of NE. As NE levels increase, α relative activity decreases. In a different study, creative individuals showed higher α activity compared to non-creative subjects when asked to create a plot for a fantasy story.

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First of all, “insight” is not the same as “creativity”. Insight is a moment of clarity, the second a solution hits you. Creativity is a process, a way of thinking and perceiving. Creativity is a collection of different processes that work in different areas of the brain. Researchers published a paper on what they call the “Aha! Moment”.  The sudden insight that solves a problem, reinterprets a situation or explains a joke. In their test, they used simple word puzzles that could be solved either with an instant creative insight or a quick analysis.

Left, before an insight, activity drops in the visual cortex; right, in the “aha! moment”,  activity in the right temporal lobe spikes.

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A lot of different areas of the brain are involved in devising a solution, no matter which process is used, but during the Aha! Moment, there is a burst of high-frequency activity in the right temporal lobe. Researchers watched the brains of systematic problem solvers prepare by paying closer attention to the screen before the words appeared. Their visual cortices were on high alert. The brains of those who got a flash of creative insight, by contrast, prepared by automatically shutting down activity in the visual cortex for an instant — the equivalent of closing your eyes to block out distractions so that you can concentrate better. In this case, the brain was cutting out other sensory input and boosting the signal-to-noise ratio to retrieve the answer from the subconscious. According to researchers, creativity not only involves coming up with something new, but also with shutting down the brain’s habitual response, or letting go of conventional solutions. Researchers caution that there is always a gap between what happens in the lab and the real world. It seems that to be creative is to be something we don’t have a test for.

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Vandervert described how the brain’s frontal lobes and the cognitive functions of the cerebellum collaborate to produce creativity and innovation. Vandervert’s explanation rests on considerable evidence that all processes of working memory responsible for processing all thoughts are adaptively modeled by the cerebellum.  Vandervert’s approach helps explain creativity and innovation in sports, art, music, the design of video games, technology, mathematics, the child prodigy, and thoughts in general. Cerebral Blood Flow measures were obtained in a research study during the performance of the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (verbal). Highly creative individuals had significantly higher activation in right and left cerebellum and in right and left frontal and temporal lobes, confirming inter-hemispheric interactions during the performance of creative tasks.

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f-MRI, brain and music:

This study included six full-time professional jazz musicians. They got their brains scanned (f-MRI) while playing a scale or a memorized jazz piece exactly as written and again when they were free to improvise, riffing off the assigned music.

When they improvised, the brain’s dorsolateral prefrontal and lateral orbital regions were far less active — and another brain area, the medial prefrontal cortex, was more active. The brain regions that were quiet during improvisation are involved in consciously monitoring, evaluating, and correcting behaviors, write the researchers. In contrast, the medial prefrontal cortex allows self-expression, in this case in the form of jazz improvisation, according to this study. But creativity isn’t just about self-expression. The brain’s sensory regions were more active during improvisation. It’s almost as if the brain ramps up its sensorimotor processing in order to be in a creative state. One important thing that can be concluded from this study is that there is no single creative area of the brain — no focal activation of a single area. You see a strong and consistent pattern of activity throughout the brain that enables creativity.

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Genetic polymorphism, mental illness and creativity:

A study showed that a biologically relevant polymorphism of the promoter region of the neuregulin 1 gene (SNP8NRG243177/rs6994992) is associated with creativity in people with high intellectual and academic performance. Intriguingly, the highest creative achievements and creative- thinking scores were found in people who carried the T genotype, which was previously shown to be related to psychosis risk and altered prefrontal activation.  This is the first study to show that a genetic polymorphism related to severe mental disorders may have a positive impact on psychological functions.  How does this polymorphism lead to higher creativity? A possible link may be reduced cognitive inhibition, which is related to schizotypal features resulting in increased creativity in people with high intelligence. The prefrontal cortex is important in cognitive inhibition and creativity, and there is evidence that the promoter polymorphism of the neuregulin 1 gene affects the functioning of this brain region. Indeed, it has been reported that the reduction of prefrontal cognitive inhibition may lead to creative peaks in highly functioning people, even if they are in the presymptomatic stage of severe neurodegenerative illnesses.

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Brain damage and creativity?

An intriguing study led by Dr Mark Lythgoe investigates whether certain types of brain damage could be related to creativity. In 2001, 51-year old Tommy McHugh had a brain hemorrhage that changed his life. Formerly a builder with a criminal record, Tommy developed an artistic compulsion. He now writes poetry, draws, paints and makes sculptures throughout the day and night. Dr Mark Lythgoe, a neurophysiologist at University College London said: “It may be that the brain damage Tommy has sustained has caused dis-inhibition of brain pathways, allowing Tommy’s creativity to surface. It seems a floodgate has been opened.” He added “We are still a long way from understanding the brain bases of the artistic drive, but we hope that by studying rare and intriguing cases like Tommy’s, we might get a glimpse of what could be going on”.

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Synopsis of neuro-electrical and neuro-imaging studies on creativity:

Creativity is a cornerstone of what makes us human, yet the neural mechanisms underlying creative thinking are poorly understood. A recent surge of interest into the neural underpinnings of creative behavior has produced a banquet of data that is tantalizing but, considered as a whole, deeply self-contradictory. Researchers review the emerging literature and take stock of several long-standing theories and widely held beliefs about creativity. A total of 72 experiments, reported in 63 articles, make up the core of the review. They broadly fall into 3 categories: divergent thinking, artistic creativity, and insight. Electroencephalographic studies of divergent thinking yield highly variegated results. Neuroimaging studies of this paradigm also indicate no reliable changes above and beyond diffuse prefrontal activation. These findings call into question the usefulness of the divergent thinking construct in the search for the neural basis of creativity. A similarly inconclusive picture emerges for studies of artistic performance, except that this paradigm also often yields activation of motor and temporoparietal regions. Neuroelectric and imaging studies of insight are more consistent, reflecting changes in anterior cingulate cortex and prefrontal areas. Taken together, creative thinking does not appear to critically depend on any single mental process or brain region, and it is not especially associated with right brains, defocused attention, low arousal, or alpha synchronization, as sometimes hypothesized. To make creativity tractable in the brain, it must be further subdivided into different types that can be meaningfully associated with specific neurocognitive processes. (I have divided creativity into cognitive & artistic creativity and posted table differentiating them in earlier discussion.) Accordingly, the following conclusions can be drawn about creativity as a whole. First, creativity, or any alleged stage of it, is not particularly associated with the right brain or any part of the right brain. Second, this conclusion can be broadened to include any phrenological supposition on creativity. Researchers can state, in short, that creativity is not particularly associated with any single brain region, the prefrontal cortex excluded. There is overwhelming evidence from all studies that tasks purportedly involving creative cognition induce changes in prefrontal activity.

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My theory of creative neurons:

Scientists have for some time, been looking at neurons in the brain that they call Mirror Neurons. It appears that simply put, these neurons learn from vicarious experience (watching, hearing) and not by doing. Researchers say that if we follow this logic, then one of the ways in which we can trigger creative thinking is by watching creativity at work. The problem is, of course, that we can only watch the output of creativity, and not what the brain is actually doing up there in that maze of neurons. But, since we can learn to dance quicker and better by watching other dancers, it can be hypothesized that we can also become more creative by watching the output of creative people.  Creativity happens in all sorts of ways.

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 My view is that those who copy cannot create. Mirror neurons are copying and therefore cannot create. I will give real life example. In the year 1976, I appeared for secondary school certificate exam at the age of 15 years. I was smart in math, so I finished my math paper 90 minutes before stipulated time and left exam hall. However, the exam supervisor was corrupt and he allowed other students to copy my math paper. When the results came, I got 149 marks out of 150 marks and all those who copied from me got 130 marks. The fact is that they copied blindly without thinking and therefore could not achieve perfection. Since mirror neurons are only copying actions & intentions, they cannot take part in associating unrelated ideas in unpredictable ways. I propose theory of creative neurons which are different than mirror neurons and which exist in prefrontal cortex in human brain and possibly in other areas also. These creative neural circuits are responsible for associating unrelated remote ideas to create novel ideas. Mirror neuron systems exist in animals just like humans but creative neuron system is poorly developed in animals as compared to humans. That is why dogs, cats, birds, goats etc live life in the same way as they lived thousands years ago but humans have developed tremendously over thousands of years due to creative neuron system which work in association with mirror neuron system. Now, what genetic mutation caused creative neuron system to develop in humans in the first place is a matter of research.

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Creativity techniques:

Various techniques have been developed to stimulate and enhance creativity.

 1) Brainstorming:

Brainstorming is a group creativity technique by which a group tries to find a solution for a specific problem by gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its members. Participants include both experts and novices. Participants are encouraged to provide wild and unexpected answers. Ideas receive no criticism or discussion. The group simply provides ideas that might lead to a solution and apply no analytical judgment as to the feasibility. The judgments are reserved for a later date. Research has failed to support the claim that group brainstorming could produce double the creative output of a group of individuals’ collected ideas. Indeed, some researchers demonstrated the opposite effect. They found that, given equal time, “real” groups, those that brainstormed together, produced fewer ideas than “nominal” groups, those wherein individuals provided ideas independently of one another and only existed as a group insofar as their work was considered as a whole by researchers. Brainstorming is a popular method of group interaction in both educational and business settings. Even though there have been arguments about its productivity, brainstorming is still a widely used method for coming up with creative solutions. It’s still an area under research and improvements or variations are still developing in progress.

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2) Koinonia:

 To generate ideas, brainstorm with others in your field. Einstein, for instance, would freely exchange ideas and opinions with his colleagues.  Einstein would use a technique originated by Socrates in which the principles of Koinonia were applied. Koinonia means “spirit of fellowship.”

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3) Edison’s Idea File:

 Keep track of any good ideas you come across by writing them down and storing them someplace where you’ll easily find them when you need them.

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4) SCAMPER:

 SCAMPER is an acronym which stands for questions relating to the following:

S – Substitute/Simplify: Think about substituting part of your product/process for something else. Typical questions include: What can I substitute to make an improvement? What if I swap this for that and see what happens?

C – Combine: Think about combining two or more parts of your problem to achieve a different product/process or to enhance synergy. Typical questions are: What materials, features, processes, people, products or components can I combine? Where can I build synergy?

A – Adapt: Think about which parts of the product/process could be adapted to remove the problem or think how you could change the nature of the product/process. Some typical questions that can be asked are: What part of the product could I change? And in exchange for what? What if I were to change the characteristics of a component?

M – Modify/distort: Think about distorting the product or process in an unusual way. Typical questions can include: What happens if I warp or exaggerate a feature or component? What will happen if I modify the process in some way?

P – Put to other Purposes: Think of how you might be able to put your current solution/ product/process to other purposes, or think of what you could reuse from somewhere else in order to solve your own problem. Typical questions are: What other market could I use this product in? Who or what else might be able to use it?

E – Eliminate: Think of what might happen if you eliminated various parts of the product/process/problem and consider what you might do in that situation. You can ask the following questions: What would happen if I removed a component or part of it? How else would I achieve the solution without the normal way of doing it?

R – Rearrange: Think of what you would do if part of your problem/product/process worked in reverse or was done in a different order. You can use this to see your problem from different angles and come up with new ideas. A typical question would be: What if I did it the other way round?

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5) Mind-Mapping:

A Mind Map is a graphic technique for representing ideas, using words, images, symbols and color. The concept was created by Tony Buzan and is based on patterns found in nature and research on how humans think and how the brain works. The Mind Map is perfectly suited to innovative thinking as it consumes all the skills commonly found with creativity, especially imagination, association of ideas and flexibility. Psychological research has identified several fundamental elements in creative thinking including: the use of colors, shapes, dimensions, unusual elements, the adjustment of conceptual positions and response to emotionally appealing objects.

Basically, you write down the problem or issue at the center of a piece of paper. You draw branches leading out from the central issue, and smaller branches leading out from these. The branches are organic and free flowing, instead of being structured and rigid. The first level of branches represents the main associations that come from thinking of the central issue. You add one word per branch. Then, from each main association you’re going to branch out into sub-associations. It’s important to use color and images when creating mind maps to further stimulate both memory and imagination.

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6) Wishful Thinking:

Think of a situation in a wishful, fantastic sense. Think beyond sensible, beyond practical and feasible. Just think about what would be really nice or simply interesting. Think playfully, as a child. Frame ideas starting with “I wish”.

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7) Biomimicry:

Biomimicry studies nature’s best ideas and then imitates them to solve human problems. It’s innovation inspired by nature, such as studying a leaf to invent a better solar cell. Nature is filled with solutions that already work.

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8) Free Writing:

Focus on the problem that you’re trying to solve. Give yourself a set period of time–twenty to thirsty minutes–and simply start writing. Write whatever comes to mind–without censoring what you’re writing–and don’t lift your pen or stop typing for the allotted time. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or anything else except putting words on paper.

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9)Miscellaneous techniques includes Idea box, The Exquisite Corpse, The Lotus Blossom Approach, Role playing, Napoleon technique, Assumption busting, Attribute listing etc.

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Why study creativity?

1) Develop your potential beyond the boundaries of intelligence. Expand on your abilities.

2) Rapid growth of competition in business and industry. In a world of increasing complexity, change, and competition, generating new ideas and bringing them to the table is now essential for corporate management. Successful businesses are the ones that instill creativity throughout the organization.

3) Effective use of human resources creativity is a human resource which exists in all organizations. To survive in today’s economy, it is imperative for an organization to nurture the creative potential of its human resources.

4) Discover new and better ways to solve problems. Increasingly, the problems you face are complex and open-ended. Knowledge alone isn’t enough to reach innovative solutions. Creative thinking skills are required.

5) Development of society. Creativity is a central factor in our ability to continue to adapt to the changing environment. If a nation actively seeks to nurture creativity, it will play a part in making history.

6) Building on the nature of knowledge. Creativity skills can assist an individual in enhancing his or her knowledge base. Without creative thinking, an individual is condemned to stay within the knowledge base as it is given.

7) Natural human phenomenon. Creativity is very democratic! Everyone has some, but to varying levels and degrees. We know these abilities can be enhanced.

8) Important aspect of mental health. Individuals who are capable of incorporating creativity into their lives can enjoy the experience of discovering, developing, and utilizing their many talents. Skills relevant to creativity are also useful in coping with life’s challenges. There is no doubt; creative thinking is a critical life skill.

9) Growing body of interest. There is a growing body of literature that represents impressive progress in understanding the nature of creativity. Moreover, there have been a large number of national and international conferences on creativity for over 50 years.

10) Builds on all disciplines. Creativity is in all fields-from chemistry to engineering, education to computer science, sociology to business.

11) Contributes to effective leadership. It is the application of creativity skills that distinguishes a manager who maintains the status quo from a leader who supplies a new direction or vision. By internalizing the spirit of creativity and the principles of creative problem solving, an individual can be transformed into a change leader.

12) Enhances the process of learning. The nature of learning requires the use of skills associated with creativity. Educators adopt a creative approach to teaching are more likely to deliver content and create a learning environment that develops higher order thinking skills.

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Creativity is the most crucial Factor for Future Success:

According to the IBM 2010 Global CEO Study, which surveyed 1,500 Chief Executive Officers from 60 countries and 33 industries worldwide, CEOs believe that, “more than rigor, management discipline, integrity or even vision – successfully navigating an increasing complex world will require creativity”.  CEOs say creativity helps them capitalize on complexity “The effects of rising complexity calls for CEOs and their teams to lead with bold creativity, connect with customers in imaginative ways and design their operations for speed and flexibility to position their organizations for twenty-first century success.”  If we are going to find solutions in a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected and complex, we cannot rely on traditional ways of leading and managing.

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Dark side of creativity:

With few exceptions, scholarship on creativity has focused on its positive aspects while largely ignoring its dark side. This includes not only creativity deliberately aimed at hurting others, such as crime or terrorism, or at gaining unfair advantages, but also the accidental negative side effects of well-intentioned acts. The dark side to creativity represents a quest for a radical autonomy apart from the constraints of social responsibility.  In other words, by encouraging creativity, we are encouraging a departure from society’s existing norms and values. Expectation of conformity runs contrary to the spirit of creativity. When their motivation to think outside the box is heightened, individuals may find creative loopholes to solve difficult tasks they are facing, even if that entails crossing ethical boundaries. For instance, in the field of professional legal services, lawyers motivated to think outside the box often end up exploiting the loopholes and ambiguities of the law on behalf of clients, and their “creative compliance” with regulatory requirements undermines the purpose and effectiveness of existing regulations. Creativity is a common aspiration for individuals, organizations, and societies. However, some researchers propose that a creative personality and creativity primes promote individuals’ motivation to think outside the box and that this increased motivation leads to unethical behavior. 

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Anyone who has spent significant time with artists knows that creative genius often comes with a dark side. A study was conducted to find relationship between creativity and unethical behavior. The results provide evidence for an association between creativity and dishonesty, thus highlighting a dark side of creativity.  Key findings include:

1) Creative students who showed a natural aptitude for divergent thinking tended to cheat more than linear thinkers.

2) Creativity is a better predictor of unethical behavior than intelligence.

3) Students who were deliberately induced to think creatively were, in turn, more likely to cheat than those who weren’t primed to think outside the box.

4) Creative people are more likely to cheat in part because their creativity helps them to come up with ingenious explanations to justify their unethical behavior.

5) Individuals who work in more creative positions are also more morally flexible.

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This study was criticized by following points:

1) Are companies like Google or IBM or any other with great R &D full of cheaters?

2) Are artists and scientists unethical by nature?

3) If “individuals who work in more creative positions are also more morally flexible”, could it be possible that the problem is not the individual but the selection process and the incentives?

4) If corrupts are almost always creative, so should you stop hiring creative people in order to eliminate corruption in your organization?  

5) May be politics is very creative and that’s why politicians are unethical. So should we elect non-creative people to clean up politics?

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The bottom line is that if you don’t have high moral and ethical standards, being creative means overstepping the ethical boundaries. The relationship between individuals’ creativity and their ethical ideologies appears to be complex. It appears that creative people are less likely than non-creative people to follow universal rules in their moral decision making. However, the finding that creative individuals tend to be situationists, and particularly that they tend to be high in idealism, appears to refute the line of reasoning that argues for a “creative personality” characterized in part by social insensitivity. Understanding the relationship between creativity and ethical ideologies has important implications for researchers, managers and teachers. Creativity is morally neutral; it is neither inherently moral nor immoral. It is how you use it that gives it its moral character. Morality is usually subjective, depending on the person making the judgment and when they make it. I have already discussed morality in my article on “science of religion”. One example of creativity and morality is sufficient. One man was attracted to a young beautiful woman and wanted to have sex with her. If he straight away proposes friendship and sex, it would be rejected. If he raped her, it would be a crime. So he made a plan. He hired two hooligans who would attempt to rape her. As planned, one fine evening, as she was walking across a lonely street, these hooligans attacked her and she started shouting for help. As planned, this man suddenly appeared, fought with hooligans, got injured and apparently saved chastity of this woman. Woman always likes a man who saved her chastity. So this young woman fell in love with this man, they started seeing each other and ultimately this man enjoyed consensual sex with young woman which was his original intention. Now if this woman comes to know reality, how will she feel?  She will feel that she is raped. So a creative idea mixed with immorality destroyed chastity of a woman.

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Creativity and discipline:

Creativity and discipline are two topics that have individually received a huge amount of attention online, offline, and just about everywhere in between. And they probably deserve that attention, too. The tough part is that very few people naturally have an abundance of both creativity and discipline. The scales are normally tipped in one direction or the other, and it’s our job to enhance both features maintaining fine balance between them. Which half are you stronger in — creativity or discipline?  In what ways have you helped to balance things out? How have you played to your stronger side? How have you improved your weaker side? Discipline and creativity: are they two forces in opposition, or are they complementary?  My personal opinion is that creative people are disciplined people and slight inattention or indiscretion is not indiscipline.

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Creativity and conscientiousness (meticulousness):

Over 25 years of research supports this commonsense view: Conscientiousness is the most consistent and best predictor of both job and academic performance. Clearly, long-term planning and self-control is useful when one is directing his or her self toward a standardized form of achievement. But what about creative achievement– where the goal is often never really known ahead of time and one must constantly fight the status quo and deviate from the standard path to create something new?  In their classic review of the relationship between intelligence, creativity, and personality, Frank X. Barron and David Harrington concluded that creative people tend to take more risks and are more impulsive (low Conscientiousness) but they also see themselves as competent and hard-working (high Conscientiousness). This seeming paradox (that creative people are simultaneously both high and low in Conscientiousness) can be resolved by recognizing that there are two different aspects of Conscientiousness, each one with opposite correlations with creativity. Creative individuals tend to be more self-focused, independent, and intrinsically motivated (lower dependability/orderliness) while also being more driven, persistent, and gritty (higher industriousness/achievement).  In his large review, Gregory Feist found a positive relationship between Conscientiousness and scientific performance and a negative relationship between Conscientiousness and artistic performance. Perhaps scientists can’t afford to be as disorderly as artists. Again I want to emphasize difference between cognitive creativity and artistic creativity. Cognition and conscientiousness go hand in hand and therefore scientists are usually conscientious while artists are usually sloppy.
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Why creative ideas are rejected in the first place?

You come up with a great new idea at work, or at home. Or a political leader actually tries something “new and different” when faced with a previously intractable problem. But then, rather than grateful acceptance, or even a fair hearing, the idea is squashed, ridiculed, or otherwise ignored. Sound familiar? It should. As anyone who has ever suggested a creative solution knows, people often avoid the uncomfortable uncertainty of novel solutions regardless of potential benefit. Creativity, no matter how much we say we like it, frequently elicits negative response. Anyone who has got ingenious idea knows the experience of having a brilliant idea rejected. The narrow-minded audience is incapable of grasping the visionary concept being put forward, greeting the proposal with dismissive shrugs and petty objections when they should be showering praise and adulation. When I put forward theory of “Duality of Existence”, many people said that it is a good essay but humbug. Creativity is almost universally considered a positive trait in theory, but in practice it seems to make people distinctly uncomfortable. Many people harbor an anti-creativity bias that they are generally not aware of. Despite professing a desire for creative thinking, most people are actually unable to identify a creative idea when they encounter one. Instead, they associate creativity with words like “agony,” “vomit” and “poison”. They also rejected novel ideas for products that employed new technologies. People desire creativity but reject creative ideas because of fear of uncertainty. 

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Experiments performed in 2010 at the University of Pennsylvania may go some ways to resolving this apparent paradox. According to researchers, the study suggests four basic conclusions:

1) Creative ideas are by definition novel, and novelty can trigger feelings of uncertainty that make most people uncomfortable.
2) People dismiss creative ideas in favor of ideas that are purely practical — tried and true.
3) Objective evidence shoring up the validity of a creative proposal does not motivate people to accept it.
4) Anti-creativity bias is so subtle that people are unaware of it, which can interfere with their ability to recognize a creative idea.

The study found both conscious and unconscious evidence of a bias against creativity. The unconscious bias, like racism, was also so subtle that they were simply unaware of it, leaving them unable to recognize creativity.  It all goes back to uncertainty, say the researchers. There’s no real pressing need for creative ideas in times of certainty and security, and people tend to associate creativity itself with stepping outside the bounds of safety. Revealing the existence and nature of a bias against creativity can help explain why people might reject creative ideas and stifle scientific advancements, even in the face of strong intentions to the contrary. Uncertainty drives the search for and generation of creative ideas, but uncertainty also makes us less able to recognize creativity, perhaps when we need it most. These findings imply a deep irony. Revealing the existence and nature of a bias against creativity can help explain why people might reject creative ideas and stifle scientific advancements, even in the face of strong intentions to the contrary. Uncertainty also makes us less able to recognize creativity, perhaps when we need it most. What this means in practical terms is that if a solution to an obstinate problem doesn’t make you feel at least a little uncomfortable, then it is likely to be something that has been previously tried and found wanting. Of course, finding yourself uncomfortable when presented with a creative, new solution does not mean that the new solution automatically has value. In fact, we’re built to be wary of uncertainty and novelty for very good reasons: sometimes creative solutions are profoundly wrong-headed. However, the absence of discomfort can indicate that you may indeed be once again trying to do the same thing while hoping for a different result. People have different levels of tolerance for uncertainty. But by making such discomfort expectable, you just may be able to search for and adopt potentially useful creative solutions that would have otherwise been dismissed. The field of creativity may need to shift its current focus from identifying how to generate more creative ideas to identify how to help innovative institutions recognize and accept creativity.

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Future of creativity:

In addition to developing creativity in Artificial Intelligence, there is a profound interest in encouraging creativity in education. There has always been an emphasis on educating and nurturing certain qualities in children, and creativity is one such quality. With increasing knowledge about the processes involved in creativity, there is greater hope for teaching creativity. By changing the environment and learning tools, children will be able to make better connections between things and thoughts and will not be so restricted. By encouraging class discussion, banter and wit will be encouraged along with the sharing of ideas and experiences. Along with encouraging creativity in children, there is a push to encourage creativity in business. With all businesses, there is an issue of innovation and new ideas which are the result of creation and creativity. To stay on top, businesses must develop new ideas to beat the competition, so naturally there is a drive to encourage creativity in employees. The Human-Computer Interactions (HCI) is a new field to promote creativity.

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Creativity myths:

Myth 1: Creativity comes from Creative Types.

Fact: The fact is, almost all of the research in this field shows that anyone with normal intelligence is capable of doing some degree of creative work. Creativity depends on a number of things: experience, including knowledge and technical skills; talent; an ability to think in new ways; and the capacity to push through uncreative dry spells. Most people aren’t anywhere near to realizing their creative potential, in part because they’re laboring in environments that impede intrinsic motivation.    

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Myth 2: Money is a Creativity Motivator.

Fact: The experimental research that has been done on creativity suggests that money isn’t everything. In a study, researchers asked creative people, “To what extent were you motivated by rewards today?” Quite often they’d say that the question is not relevant — that they don’t think about pay on a day-to-day basis. The research shows that people put far more value on a work environment where creativity is supported, valued, and recognized.

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Myth 3: Time pressure fuels creativity. People often thought they were most creative when they were working under severe deadline pressure.

Fact: Research showed that People were least creative when they were fighting the clock. Time pressure stifles creativity because people can’t deeply engage with the problem. Creativity requires an incubation period; people need time to soak in a problem and let the ideas bubble up. In fact, it’s not so much the deadline that’s the problem; it’s the distractions that rob people of the time to make that creative breakthrough.

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Myth 4: Fear forces breakthroughs. There’s this widespread notion that fear and sadness somehow spur creativity.

Fact: Research found that creativity is positively associated with joy & anger, and negatively associated with sadness, fear, and anxiety. Even though there are studies with contradictory results, I believe that happiness promotes creativity and sadness suppresses creativity from my own experience in life.

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Myth 5: Internal competition fosters innovation.

Fact:  Research found that creativity takes a hit when people in a work group compete instead of collaborate. When people compete for recognition, they stop sharing information and therefore nobody has all of the information required to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.

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Myth 6: Intelligence and creativity are essentially unrelated abilities.

Fact: Even though, creativity and intelligence are not synonymous, there is sufficient evidence for positive correlation between cognitive creativity and intelligence. As far as artistic creativity is concerned, some intelligence is required for artists to perform in any field. No moron can ever be creative.

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Myth 7: Alcohol and drugs can stimulate artists, writers and musicians to create great works of art.

Fact: Drugs and alcohol can actually stifle creativity. The idea that drugs and alcohol give artists unique insights and powerful experiences is an illusion. When you try and capture the experiences [triggered by drugs or alcohol], they are often nonsense. For example, the strong visual experiences triggered by hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD, can be captured on canvas – but this is unlikely to happen in other fields such as music and writing. In fact, these drugs often wipe your memory, so it’s hard to remember how you were in that state of mind.  The 19th century French poet Baudelaire and American writer Ernest Hemingway, were well known for their use of intoxicating substances (cannabis and alcohol respectively), most produced their greatest works when they were sober. A scientific study was conducted by researchers on 120 participants (60 regular users and 60 novice users of cannabis). Their studies and results concluded that “the use of marijuana had no positive effects on divergent thinking (creativity) in novice users and reduced effect in regular users.”

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Myth 8: The popular myths about the two brain hemispheres: The right brain is artistic, musical, spatial, intuitive, and holistic; the left brain is linear, rational, analytical, and linguistic. 

Fact: There is some truth in these labels. But not surprisingly, they are mostly oversimplifications of tendencies, not fixed rules. On the subject of creativity and language-two skills often polarized as examples of right and left brain thinking, there is not any good evidence that the right hemisphere is more creative than the left. Language itself is highly creative-every sentence you construct is a new creation-and one could make a case for supposing that the left hemisphere is really the creative one. However, artistic creativity is likely to invoke more right-hemisphere capacities, simply because of the right- hemisphere bias for spatial skills. The fact of the matter is that all brains are not organized in the same way. For the organization of brain, just like with everything else in human body, genes collide with environment and the result is not a predictable thing. Fifteen years of brain imaging studies have left researchers unable to define regions and networks that are involved in various brain faculties, although they have debunked the myth that creativity is seated in the right side of the brain.

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Myth 9: Popular perception is that creative ideas come out of blue, out of nothing.

Fact: For both scientists and artists, ‘de novo’ creation is a myth: all modern work is built on the insights and discoveries of previous generations. Associating unrelated ideas may produce a novel idea but if you do not have ideas in brain, you cannot associate them. I devised mathematical formula of Pi when I was a medical student but I did have some fundamental knowledge of mathematics. Had I been an illiterate person who never went to school, I could never have devised any formula of Pi. 

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The moral of the story:

1) Creativity in humans is due to existence of special creative neurons in brain which associate/connect remote unrelated ideas/concepts/thoughts in an unpredictable way to create novel idea/concept/thought which is useful to humans.

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2) From Stone Age to Nanotechnology, we ascended the ladder of creativity; other non-human animals could not because of poverty of creative neurons in them.

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3)  Creativity is possible in all areas of human activities and everyone has potential creative ability.

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4) There are fundamental differences between cognitive creativity and artistic creativity, proving the point that creativity itself is not a solitary attribute.

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5) Those who do not appreciate creativity are unlikely to be creative themselves.

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6) Creativity and morality have no correlation. Creativity is morally neutral; it is neither inherently moral nor immoral. It is how you use it that gives it its moral character.

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7) Creativity and intelligence are not unrelated abilities. Cognitive creativity is highly correlated with intelligence while artistic creativity is poorly correlated with intelligence.

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8) Connecting/associating unrelated ideas to create a new idea is a process which when logical becomes creativity and when illogical becomes madness. Since artistic creativity does not need critical thinking in contrast to cognitive creativity, artists do have high prevalence of mental illnesses as compared to normal people.

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Dr. Rajiv Desai. MD. 

September 30, 2011     

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Postscript:

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