Picasso.jpgIn her book Slanted Truths (1997), evolutionary biologist Lynne Margulis tells an amusing anecdote about a meeting between the famous painter Pablo Picasso and a man who had just been subjected to some of Picasso’s cubist renderings. The fellow pulled a photograph of his wife from his pocket and angrily demanded of Picasso, “Why can’t you paint realistically, like that?” Picasso peered at the photo, “Is that what your wife really looks like?” he asked. “Yes!” the man retorted. “Well,” the painter replied calmly, “Then she’s very small, and quite flat” (pages 62-63) One can imagine Picasso holding the photograph so that he wasn't examining the image on its surface, but rather the flat piece of paper a photograph is—looking at it from an unexpected angle.Picasso3.jpg

"Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up." Pablo Picasso

An (Un)learned Skill

In 1960s, systems scientist, Dr. George Land was asked by NASA to develop a test to help identify the creativity of potential employees. In 1968 he used the test to study the creativity of 1,600 children. He re-tested the same children at 10 years of age and again at 15.

Here are his results:
  • Among 5 year-olds, 98% demonstrated creativity
  • Among 10 year-olds, 30% demonstrated creativity
  • Among 15 year-olds, 12% demonstrated creativity
  • Among 280,000 adults, 2% demonstrated creativity
“What we have concluded,” Land wrote, “is that non-creative behavior is learned.” In other words, everyone has creativity, the key is to find your way back to it. Creativity is not about learning a process, but about unlearning.
(Land & Jarman, Breaking Point and Beyond, 1993)

One of the best ways to expand your capacity is to tackle tasks that don't have obvious answers like the riddles & puzzles on the MindGames page.

World Science Festival

What is Creativity?

“Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being. Creativity requires passion and commitment. It brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life. The experience is one of heightened consciousness: ecstasy.” – Rollo May, The Courage to Create

Some Thoughts From Yale's School of Management (SOM):

The idea of humans as uniquely creative animals goes back at least as far as the ancient Greeks. Aristotle considered creativity to be a gift from the gods, something that resulted not during rational thought but when one was “bereft of his senses.” As society has become more scientific, so has its conception of creativity. Researchers use the latest imaging technology to analyze exactly what happens in our brains during the creative process.

Richard Foster, a lecturer in management at Yale SOM and emeritus director of McKinsey & Company, has made a study of creativity, both its history and the process itself. He differentiates creativity both from innovation and discovery, which often are used as synonyms. Only creativity, he says, is about making something new, rather than merely applying or discovering something new. “Creative solutions are insightful, they’re novel, they’re simple, they’re elegant, and they’re generative,” he says. “When you find one creative idea, more often than not it triggers other ideas in the same fashion.”

A key to being creative, as Foster sees it, is the ability to find associations between different fields of knowledge, especially ones that appear radically different at first. The process is iterative rather than linear and requires people with curiosity, energy, and the openness to see connections where others cannot. “New solutions are often the combination of two or more existing concepts. If you had a videotape store and combine it with Amazon and Priority Mail, you get Netflix,” he says. “It’s all about constructing associative networks of ideas. That’s what you’re doing when you’re creating a business. A business is not one idea; it’s many, many ideas.”

Fostering Creativity