Dictionaries would bluntly define “creativity” as “the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.” Creativity may seem to be a spontaneous outpour of new ideas, but for the most part, it is the process of making up something new from the vast accumulation of old knowledge.
Some, indeed, stand out when it comes to creativity. For instance, Thomas Edison is known for over 1,000 patent inventions. Disney’s global entertainment entity was founded through Walt Disney’s “imagineering,” a term he coined himself as the fusion of imagination and engineering. The prolific Leonardo Di Vinci is tagged as one of the best-talented painters of all time. In the contemporary world, entrepreneur and visionary Steve Jobs continues to revolutionize technology.
So are these well-known people just the handpicked individuals to be endowed with creativity? Are we all born with it? Different groups of people are saying different things.
It’s a Gene thing
Researchers discovered that some people are more likely to be creative than others, based on particular genes. The brain has two hemispheres joined by a bundle of fibers called the corpus callosum. Writers, artists, and musicians were found to have a smaller corpus callosum, possibly allowing the two sides of the brain to develop their specialization. Studies on the National Institute of Psychiatry and Addictions state that people’s brain areas’ ability to talk to each other is crucial to originality, fluency, and flexibility. Highly creative individuals were found to have this connectivity on a widespread scale which can be attributed to genes that play a role in developing pathways between different areas. These genes increase the level of emotions and memory that reach consciousness.
Studies have also found out that people with bipolar disorder tend to be more creative. Researchers have observed that in bipolar mania, patients develop fast and divergent thinking, increased self-esteem, and a burst of energy and motivation, often to create. Even the relatives of the patients with neuropsychiatric disorders show an inclination towards creativity, leading researchers to assume that the underlying gene mechanisms, rather than the disorder itself, are the creative ability source.
However, these scientific studies still consider the environment as equally influential to the creativity of an individual. For instance, trauma can alter brain function and structure, affecting potential creativity tendencies.
Everyone is born creative until school happens.
Gearing more towards the environmental aspect of creativity, Sir Ken Robinson did a Ted Talk in 2007 on the topic of whether the educational systems around the world kill or suppress creativity. Contrary to the idea of a genetic lottery on creativity, a conducted study on 1,600 children ages 4 to 5 years old generated that 98% of the children scored at a genius level, implying that almost everyone is born a creative. The same group of children is again tested throughout a period, and researchers found out that by grade school, only 30% of the children remained at the creative genius level, by high school, there were only 12% of them, and when tested as adults, only 2% remained a creative genius. Sir Ken Robinson was not the only one to notice this decreasing trend. This led to the idea that although people are born creative, schools “kill” the creativity in people.
It’s a skill
While some researchers state that creativity is in the genes and some researchers state that everyone is born creative, IDEO’s co-founders, Tom Kelley and David Kelley, believe that creativity is for everyone. It is a skill that needs to be continuously honed and practiced. They attested working with people who claim not to be creative and yet could produce creative results. They said that the best way to develop creativity, whether someone feels an innate inclination to it or now, is to apply a human-centered approach to a project.
This tells people that regardless of genetic makeup or environment, a creative burst can happen when people regularly practice and use creativity with the right approach.
Whether creativity is innate, influenced by the environment, or developed through practice, people may vary in perception based on how they experience creativity. There is such thing as “naturally creative,” but this varies how people may have gotten or developed it. All the information delivered by researchers and experts in the creative field implies that every single one can be creative, but to be able to stand out is all a matter of utilizing creativity, innate or learned, to make something spectacular.