Imagine you are hungry and all you have at home is a coconut, some rice, and an egg. If you have no clue and have zero creative thoughts you’d probably eat the raw egg with unboiled hard rice while staring at the coconut. If however, you have memories of your dad cracking the coconut, and your mom boiling the rice, your brain can connect the dots and form a new creative idea. You boil the rice inside coconut water, then fry it with the egg and add coconut flakes. Voila!
Enjoy the your meal!” Creativity is our ability to look at a problem and come up with a good solution to solve it. Once we understand this, we realize that it has nothing to do with the subject matter, job, or what we study. There are creative inventors and creative artists, but there are also very creative cleaners and highly creative teachers. People we worship for their creativity, often just connect different ideas in a beautiful new way and make them commercially successful.
While all of us are creative, we differ in the way that we are and to what extent. Michael Kirton came up with the Adaption-Innovation Theory. He believes that when we solve problems we are either more adaptive or more innovative. People who are more adaptive-creative, try to do things better. People who are more innovative-creative, try to do things differently.
To solve a specific problem, say that of smelly cat litter, both types would use a different approach. More adaptive types look for a solution inside the box.
They might try to create better cat litter by looking at’s chemical properties, then increase the size of the sand particles and finally add some refreshing tropical scent. More innovative creatives, think outside the litter box. They come up with cat diapers, cat schools for good manners, or a robocat.
But there are also other differences. Psychologist J.P. Guilford and some others argue that there is divergent and convergent thinking. More divergent thinkers are better at coming up with many ideas when they see a problem.
Convergent thinkers see all the details and are better at narrowing down the options.
A diverse team is hence usually most effective when trying to solve problems. A divergent thinker can list many ideas. After a convergent thinker can then look at each option in detail and then pick the best one. The result is better than if anyone would do it by themselves.
A murder mystery experiment involving two groups of students shows how creative diversity works. Group A was full of students from the same background. Group B was also all similar but joined by one single stranger. The students from group A enjoyed the process and felt like they worked together very well. The students in group B didn’t like having a stranger in their team, but they solved the mystery twice as fast and won the race.
The researchers concluded that the stranger added a new perspective, making the group think harder, and making them more careful of drawing fast conclusions or falling into groupthink. The result was a more intelligent problem-solving process.
If we want to become more creative, we first have to build a collection of knowledge and memories, ideally by seeking new experiences. Only then we can increase the dots in our brain that we can connect. Clayton Christensen from Harvard Business School, recommends that parents should fix things at home all by themselves.
Their children then learn that problems can be solved by themselves and in many different ways. Jack Matson, professor of creativity at Penn State University, recommends dressing for failure. This gives us a new perspective and the ability to play new roles. Marc Schwyn, founder of MinuteVideos suggests practicing saying yes! Because whenever we say yes, we open the door to new experiences.
Can you help me? Want to try my ice cream? Can I talk to you? Yes! Yes!
Yes! We recommend you to do one thing you have never done before every day for at least one week, maybe a month.
Call your weird aunt, talk to a stranger, eat using your left hand, or take a really really cold shower. Every evening write down what you did and what you’ve learned from it. Start with the first new thing right now and share your experience in the comments below right after.