Busting Creativity Myths: Lies We Believe about Creativity

Whether you studied engineering or business architecture, or anything for that matter, creativity is a vital skill and a birth right as a human. Your level of creativity has a lot to do with your preconceptions around what it means to be creative. Let’s look at a few myths and misconceptions about creativity.


Myth 1: Genius Creativity is restricted to a few “gifted” individuals

Perhaps because it is associated with artists like Leonardo Di Vinci and Lady Gaga (she was born this way, right?), creativity has gained mythical overtones which make it unattainable for most people. Unfortunately, this lie wreaks havoc on our creativity as a population. 

In George Land's longitudinal study which followed people for many years from the age of five, he wanted to find out what percentage of a particular age group showed evidence of genius-level creativity and how that number changed over time. The numbers are shocking: out of 280 000 participants: 

98% of 5-year-olds,

30% of 10-year olds,

12% of 15-year-olds, and only 

2% of adults showed genius-level creativity. 

According to Land, “non-creative behavior is learned”. He blamed our two-hundred-year-old schooling system which has not kept up with the changes evident in our workplaces today. Our “education” teaches us to edit ourselves, stop asking questions and allow our thinking to become predominantly convergent. Convergent thinking is not bad unless it overshadows divergent thinking entirely. 


Myth 2: Creativity cannot be taught

In the ’50s already, Louis R. Mobley prioritized teaching the IBM executives to think creatively. The executives embarked on a 12-week experiential boot camp which involved complex riddles and experiments where the obvious answer was never adequate. He embraced curiosity, exploration, and association in his approach to stimulating alternate solutions to problems.  

IBM Executive School was built around these six insights: 

  1. Linear teaching methods don't work, ask radical questions.
  2. Becoming creative is an unlearning process; see George Land above.
  3. You must identify as creative; therefore, DO the creative work.
  4. Hang around with creative people.
  5. Creativity is highly correlated to self-knowledge.
  6. You have permission to be wrong.


Myth 3: A person is either Analytical or Creative

On every list of vital skills for the future of work, we find analytical or critical thinking or some variant of complex problem solving. Critical thinking is associated with innovative solutions and ideas, solving complex problems using all available possibilities. This sounds an awful lot like—you guessed it, creativity! 

Creativity can be defined as finding a connection between two unrelated things. So, analyzing a problem and devising an unexpected solution is not just critical problem solving, it is creativity at its most understated. 


Myth 4: Creativity is a solo pursuit

In myth 1 we busted the misconception that creativity is only accessible to a divine few and a handful of “gifted” elite. If we are comfortable with the idea that every human can be creative, I wonder how open we are to finding “inspiration” in groups? Is it even possible? 

A simple truth is that you don’t know what you don’t know. Cognitive diversity is a reliable way of ensuring you cover the board of possibilities. This means teams, especially those responsible for innovative idea generation, should consist of cognitively and, by extension, demographically diverse people.  


How can you become more creative? 

When it comes to creativity, quantity really does equal quality. The longer the list of ideas, the higher the quality of the final solution. As we exercise our creative muscle and push beyond the obvious answers, we can all learn to find innovative and truly valuable solutions to complex and never seen before problems. 

Your ability to generate innovative ideas is not merely a function of the mind, but also a function of key behaviors that prime your brain for discovery. 

1. Association: Finding connections between seemingly unrelated ideas, questions or problems.

2. Questioning: Asking thought-provoking questions that defy conventional thinking.

3. Observing: Analyzing the actions of customers, suppliers, and competitors can reveal innovative ways of approaching challenges and identifying potential opportunities for growth.

4. Increased empathy:  Interacting with individuals who possess diverse ideas and perspectives can enhance your creativity.

5. Experimenting and exploring:  Encouraging unconventional responses through interactive experiences to uncover valuable insights.

In summary: find that 5-year-old inside you who was told to stop asking why and convince them to start again! 

Let us give you and your team the tools to ignite creativity among your employees. If you're rready to transform your business in all aspects, then reach out to us.

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