Often we take large-scale creativity as iceberg top and don’t know what is beneath the water. The good news is that intelligence is not important to creativity. Creative people do not have neither higher IQ, nor better grades in the school. What distinguishes creative people from non-creative is the motivation. Creative people are more devoted to work, independent, drive for originality and flexibility. It takes years of preparation, proper goal setting, choosing and defining a good problem to make masterpieces. Over time differences in motivation lead to differences in mental abilities, such as acquisition of extensive knowledge.
While creativity on a small-scale is crucial, it is important as well to define and understand large-scale creativity – processes and works of people who are defined creative and produce work that is called creative or masterpieces. This could help to look through the lenses of high-end creativity and perhaps even set the goal to master creativity yourself.
Attributes of large-scale creativity
We already defined what the creativity is in the last article “Dive Into Creativity Paying No Attention to Definition”. According to Carnegie Mellon cognitive psychology researcher professor John Hayes, there are four additional attributes for highly creative people and their creative works.
Actual creativity vs potential creativity. Large scale creativity happens only when a person in fact creates works and it is not sufficient to have potential to create works. It has to be not imaginary, but expressed in real works. This is a big problem for any type of work – how to make something happen, realizing the potential.
Highest level creative acts must be original. Despite how well made is the work, it is not creative on a large-scale if it does not incorporate new ideas, which are not easily derived from the earlier work. Thus, even the best paintings are not judged creative if the source is known. On the small-scale, derivatives of something that already exist and small modifications are entirely sufficient and even preferrable – it is very hard and takes long time to reach the level, where something purely original can be born.
The act must be valuable or interesting. In other words, a composer could arrange a symphony in a unique way, but if it is not judged to have music value or be interesting musically, it is not creative. If something unrelated and irrelevant is created, it might be new and creative for the person himself, but might not add pleasure and value to others, audience.
Creativity should come out of person’s intension. If the works are produced completely by accident (chance or luck), irrespective of abilities of a person, it is not considered to be creative. Works are considered creative if a chance happens with a person being curious and persistent and best of all possessing extensive knowledge about particular topic.
Characteristics of Creative People
Maestro, please, play more music, paint more paintings, design more buildings, invent more things and discover more formulas. Who are these maestros that can stun the world by creating amazing unique works, matching all the grand scale creativity attributes? Do creative individuals have superior IQ or something else that distinguishes them from others? Are they born talents (by genes or accident?) or perhaps environment-shaped individuals, or is it possible to learn and acquire grand creativity by everyone?
Some jobs are already called creative by default – writers, composers, painters, poets, designers, mathematicians, scientists, physicists, architects. However, there are also writers and composers, who do not fit the definition, because, for instance, they do not produce authentic content. Some successful designers are creative on a small-scale, but never get on a large-scale, because most of the time just use the framework developed by others and master the execution, but not invention.
Lets look at five key findings, of what creative person is alike.
No need for high IQ or other special mental (cognitive) capabilities. Even though MacKinon (1968) and Roe (1963) found that famous physicists, biologists, social scientists, research scientists, mathematicians and architects had higher than average IQ, ranging from 120 to 177, Harmon (1963) and Bloom (1963) found no relation between creativity and IQ or school grades. There are two potential explanations for this: (1) “threshold theory” says that above certain threshold (in this case IQ level of 120) there is no difference in creativity, (2) “certification theory” says that there is no relation between IQ and creativity whatsoever, but because large-scale creativity depends on getting the job, in which you can show the creativity (professor, chemist, architect) and getting a job typically depends on having a university degree, while degree depends on IQ, in the end creativity depends on IQ. Mansfield and Busse (1981) found out that not only IQ, but also other 16 cognitive tests did not consistently show relation with creativity.
Creativity requires devotion – hard or long work. While cognitive tests failed to explain creativity, personality and motivational factors had a measurable effect. Chambers (1964), Ypma (1968) and Roe (1951) reports that creative people work harder than others, spend more time than others. It takes many years for the person to create something magnificent. More on this read in the article next week.
Taking initiative, responsibility and independence. MacKinnon (1961) discovered that creative architects strongly prefer independent action and thought to conformity, while Ypma (1961) found that creative scientists are more likely to say yes to responsiblity and showed initiative in the school to create a project that was not part of the curriculum. Similarly, The Westinghouse Science Talent Search over 27 years selected 1520 students, who initiated independent projects (not taking into account written test and grades), and later 5 of them became Nobel prize winners. Chambers (1964) discovered that creative scientists tend to take action without regard to convention or current fashion.
Drive for originality. Ypma (1961), Barron (1963) and Bergum (1975) unsurprisingly discovered that creative scientists were more likely to identify creating something new as the main motivation. MacKinnon (1961) revealed that creative architects were satisfied only with solutions that were original.
Connecting different things. Rouse (1986) found out that creative engineers tend to mix algorithmic and associative thinking and represent knowledge both visually and symbolically. Apple founder Steve Jobs connected some of best ideas with a wide range of experiences unrelated to computers and technology. “It was the first computer with beautiful typography,” once said Steve Jobs. “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts…personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.”
“Creativity is just connecting things.” – Steve Jobs
Connecting unrelated things is a very important characteristic. Instagram’s co-founder Kevin Systrom had unrelated things discovery while pursuing passion for photography as a Stanford student. According to the Forbes article, “During junior year Systrom traveled abroad to study photography in Florence, Italy. He arrived in Italy with a high-powered SLR camera only to see his photo teacher swap it for a Holga camera. The cheap plastic device produced quirky square images with soft focus and light distortions that yielded a retro look. Systrom loved the aesthetic. It taught me the beauty of vintage photography and also the beauty of imperfection. It was Systroms Steve Jobs moment–a flash of artistic inspiration that he would later combine with technology to rocket Instagram ahead of its competitors”. Istagram was acquired by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012 and now has 300 million users.
Creativity requires a proper goal or concept setting. Just working hard, strive for originality or connecting different things is not enough. It is important to define a proper objective to produce large-scale creative works. When we see famous artist’s paintings, we value the works including the concept behind. French painter Eduouard Manet was a key figure in transition from realism to impressionism with his willingness to show visual effects on the canvas and “art for art’s sake”. Kotovski, Hayes and Simon (1987) showed that a problem represented in one way could be 16 times as hard to solve as the problem presented in other way. As a result, creative person, the one that solved the problem, maybe a person who chose the best representation of the problem.
Large scale creativity needs revision. Revisions are important in writing, science, painting and music composition. Pulitzer prize winner journalist Donald Murray says “rewriting is the difference between the dilettante and the artist, the amateur and professional, the unpublished and published”. Novelist and philosophy professor William Grass adds “I am not working by writing, but rewriting”