Let’s start with a fact: Everybody is capable of conceiving new ideas. Unfortunately, the chance of doing so is limited due to certain stubborn myths. Now, there’s hardly a CEO or a mission statement that doesn’t herald creativity. Despite it getting all the attention from various spheres, especially the business sector, it is maddening to see how misconceptions cloak creativity. With the term being used as a commodity for people to trade on, it has become quite important to debunk the notion that creativity is a magical ability and talk about the rightful representation of the psychology and neuroscience of creativity.
You need to be right-brained to be creative
Although most people believe that creativity is inherent in our genes, evidence suggests otherwise. The myth elaborates that some people are left-brained, showcasing logical and analytical skills, while others are right-brained because they are creative and imaginative. This is quite a harmful idea since it suggests not all people can be creative. Although it’s true that both the hemispheres function differently, there is evidence to show that problem solving takes place in the right side and storytelling is adept by the left side of the brain, when it comes to creativity. A 2013 University of Utah study headed by Jeff Andersonproves that there is no evidence to categorise people this way, and creativity isn’t preserved only on one side of the brain. Neuroscience says that every human brain has the ability to be creative.
The myth of the Lone Creator
While we imagine creative people, we picture a lonesome, angst-ridden individual. A 2014 study shows that humans judge creative work to be of a higher quality when told that the person who produced the work was eccentric. This is a stereotype – one that unhelpfully suggests that the route to creativity is through isolation. David Burkus dispels this myth by explaining how Thomas Edison, popularly depicted as a lonesome genius, was supported by a team of engineers. Similarly, Michelangelo had a group of artists who helped him paint the Sistine Chapel. This shows that creativity is more of a team sport.
The ‘Eureka!’ moment
Michael Jackson once explained how the bass line of his mega hit Billie Jean fell into his lap, as though a gift from the Lord. You can consider this to be the modern equivalent of Newton’s discovery of gravity when an apple fell on his head. The idea of sudden creative epiphanies is quite a seductive myth because, more than often, it feels as though ideas arrive as a flash of genius. Both Jackson and Newton were hard workers and focussed on their work long before their ‘Eureka moment’ occurred. The idea of a ‘Eureka moment’ encourages a passive creativity process. But the fact is you need to put in effort before coming up with the Eureka moment, which is the last step and not the only step.
Time crunch fuels creativity
In a diary study by Fast Company, it was noted that people thought of themselves as most creative while working under intense deadlines. However, another type of study they conducted showed otherwise. Creativity went down during time-pressure hangover. An incubation period is needed for creativity in order for people to soak in the problem and let the ideas come up to them.
Brainstorming = Being creative
While the lone creative genius is a myth, working together does give rise to innovative ideas. However, a persisting myth is that, when faced with a problem, a group of people can come up with a creative answer by attempting to solve the problem by throwing ideas at each other. Although it sounds like a contradiction to the lone genius myth, people first need to work alone to have a successful collaborative process. Group brainstorming is an effective way to share and merge solutions but needs individual reflection time to eventually cross-pollinate ideas with each other.
With such myths dispelled, it is safe to say that the potential for imagination and creativity lies in all. However, it doesn’t come without effort and requires a balance between alone time and collaboration with others.