What is Genius? Part III - Creativity
Creativity is an elusive concept. Googling the word returns a dozen definitions that seem correct at first glance, but none effectively captures its full essence. I tend to favor simplicity and subscribe to this portrayal: creativity is the ability to create new ideas or things.
In some ways, creativity is more complex than intelligence. First it is harder to identify because there are no standardized creativity tests today. While intelligence quotient (IQ) is a household term, there is yet to be a creativity quotient (CQ). That said, answering aye to most of the following questions is a good tell that you may be creative:
- Do you have a curious mind?
- Are you open to new experiences?
- Do you like to take risks?
- Do you like to daydream?
- Do you have a rebellious spirit?
- Are you highly sensitive to the world around you?
- Do you catch yourself wondering "what if"?
- Is your workplace messy?
Creativity is also less concrete than intelligence because its manifestation cannot be predicted with precision. In fact, creativity is often construed as a (sudden) burst of brilliance. Hence the coining of terms like "aha" and "lightbulb" moments. However, science is slowly turning the tables on eurekas, suggesting they are actually the result of continual processing by the brain in our subconscious. This is why a good night's sleep is important in unlocking creativity. For starters, studies have shown that dopamine levels rise in the pleasure centres of the brain when we are dreaming as when are we are being creative. During REM sleep, the brain becomes fragmented, reassembling bits and pieces of scenes and images in unusual ways -- hence the strange dreams at times. The scientific term for this process is called "binding error." The waking brain organizes information in an orderly way; but the sleeping brain arranges information in random and often seemingly, the wrong way. However, it is this free roaming of thoughts that allows you to explore untried avenues, a key to creativity.
What other secrets can help unleash your creativity? The eight questions above provided some hints. Being curious is important. Having an inner child in you, i.e., being naive, also helps. The key is to not let your experience and knowledge limit your thinking. That is why children are some of the most creative humans. Unfortunately, their creativity usually wanes over time when tiger parents push for scholastic results. I find lateral thinking extremely conducive to creative strokes. Being creative does not mean having to invent new things from scratch. Deriving new ways to use existing objects may lead to novel solutions to problems. A brick can surely be used for home building, but it can also act as a paperweight. The world has many specialists and not enough polymaths (generalists with a specialty). My vote goes to the generalists being the more creative problem solvers any day. But I digress...
We previously stated a genius is someone who creates meteoric contributions to the world. I believe creativity is essential to genius. It is the spark that provides breakthroughs in problem solving, or the creation of a masterpiece. It also adds more colour to the world, making life more interesting. As Einstein once said "Creativity is intelligence having fun!" High intelligence and creativity certainly give you a crack at becoming a genius.
But more still is needed...