Creativity Myth # 1 – Artistic and creative ability are one and the same

The definition of creativity often varies depending on who is asked.  Frequently when a person asks “are you creative”, what they really mean is “are you artistic”?  Accordingly, the vast majority of people typically answer that they are not creative.  This nearly universal though inaccurate creativity myth that blurs the relationship between creativity and artistic ability creates mental blocks which are not easily overcome.

Even artists suffer limitations resulting from the blurring of “art” with “creativity” because they usually devote most of their time to improving their technical skills as an artist rather than improving their cognitive ability to generate break-through ideas.

Other non-artistic activities that require creativity can include advertising, marketing, product development, scientific research, or just about anything else.  Even everyday activities can be conducted in a creative manner including teaching, parenting, managing others, volunteering, or leading companies.  There is virtual no limits to the forms and ways in which creativity can be displayed.  So, the next time this creativity myth comes up, and someone asks you if you are creative, tell them yes!

Creativity Myth # 2 – Creativity cannot developed or learned

Most of us have met a few individuals that we would describe as highly creative individuals.  These individuals are good at generating ideas, asking penetrating questions, and violating unnecessary assumptions or social norms.  For the rest of us, we tend to downplay our potential for creativity, with the assumption that we can no more change our personal level of creativity than we can make ourselves taller or smarter.

The truth is that creativity can be learned and developed.  One of the most powerful techniques for developing creative thinking is called the creative problem solving method (CPS).  The creative problem solving method breaks creativity into four or seven steps (depending on the method).  For instance, you start by defining the problem, generating ideas, turning ideas into solutions, and then finish by implementing your ideas.  The fact that the creative problem solving method has become widely adopted and taught is proof enough that this creativity myth is not true.

Creativity Myth # 3 – Creativity is an unexpected, non-repeatable, one-time act

Most people have had a “Eureka” moment where they’ve experienced creative lightening.  A new idea is like a fire that burns up the status quo, preparing the ground for something new.  After such an event, the world may be a different place.  But is creative lightning such that it will never strike the same person again, or can it be generated systematically, perhaps even on demand?

Even though the creative moment is still shrouded by a degree of mystery, there are creativity techniques that can be learned that will help you become creative in a systematic fashion.  However, the simplest creativity technique is simply hard work coupled with a persistent attitude.  Thomas Edison’s famous quote about work summarizes this point well, stating that “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

The simplest way to become creative is simply by creating every single day.  Thus, the third creativity myth is also false as hard work combined with systematic thinking (CPS) leads to creative thinking.

Travis Turner is in-house counsel at the Corporation Service Company and is obtaining a master’s degree in creativity studies from Buffalo State College.  Travis writes frequently on creativity, happiness, and faith.