Is creativity a natural gift or something that can be learned? Often people think it’s an either/or situation whereas in fact I think it’s both.
I like to use the analogy of physical flexibility. Can you touch your toes? I can, just. Some people can’t. But some lucky souls are naturally really bendy. I’m not only talking about those with that weird hypermobility thing in their joints which means they can totally freak you out with a single improbable gesture. I’m talking about how some people are just able to do the splits or get very close to it, or to put a foot over their head without breaking sweat even though they’re wearing jeans, that kind of thing.
It’s the same, I think, with creativity. Some people just seem naturally adept at being imaginative and inventive; others appear less able to do so for no apparent reason. Sure, if you’ve got a very closed mind politically or religiously, say, then it’s possible that your beliefs serve to inhibit your creative thinking capacity, since creativity is all about smashing convention and overthrowing orthodoxy. It’s possible, in other words, that certain life choices and aspects of your worldview might affect your level of creative intelligence. But it’s also likely that considering the vast complexity of the human brain, some people will naturally have one slightly better structured for combining and transforming ideas in creative ways.
The analogy between physical flexibility and creative fluidity extends to age, incidentally. Babies are really bendy, obviously naturally so. As we develop we gradually lose that flexibility and by the time we’re young adults most of it has gone. Similarly, children are often said, by figures like Sir Ken Robinson to be more creative, which is something I agree with. As we develop socially and intellectually that creativity gradually, and somewhat tragically, becomes lost.
Here’s my point. We’re all potentially very physically flexible, right? Go to yoga classes regularly and you’ll loosen your joints and muscles, no matter where you started. Analogously, I think we’re all potentially very creative. It’s just that no-one has invented an equivalent system to yoga for creativity. (Scratch that – someone has, it’s called Kleytro.)
So it is with some interest that my company, Qreativity, got back the results from a survey we conducted of 400 people in the US and UK asking people whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement: “My ability to think creatively and inventively is fixed and cannot be changed by learning and training.” Eighty-two percent disagreed. Yet in a second question we asked: “Have you invested time in developing your creative self in the last year?” Sixty-two percent said no, they haven’t.
There’s clearly something of a disconnect here between what people believe about creativity and what they’re doing about it. So why aren’t more people training their creativity? You might conclude that while people might think they could become more creative, they don’t really want or need to. But a 2012 Adobe global study of 5000 people found that eighty-eight percent say creativity is important to them.
I think it’s primarily because as far as most people know, becoming more creative is something you can only achieve in haphazard and idiosyncratic ways, maybe by reading a profound quote or discovering by chance a particular creative passion or by meeting an extraordinary person who inspires you to think differently. One of my goals in creating the world’s first systematic creativity training app is simply to make people aware that there is a straightforward (if sophisticated) way to train and enhance your creativity. Perhaps when you fully grasp that simply by doing a short regular exercise through an app you can significantly boost your creative thinking abilities, you’ll be more likely to start investing in your creative self.