Whether it was the author’s encouraging tone or his myth-breaking stance about who really fits the creative profile, the article ranked among the newspaper’s most popular of the weekend.
Lehrer believes that all of us — not only the superstars — have the gift of creativity. And the good news gets even better — he observes that our creative abilities aren’t fixed. We can improve our creative quotient by understanding how the brain works.
Choose your mode
According to Lehrer, creativity encompasses two thought processes:
- The first type refers to a moment of insight or an epiphany. It’s the proverbial light bulb turning on — that flash when you know the answer as soon as it arrives. To illustrate this process, Lehrer tells the story of how choir member and 3M engineer Arthur Fry’s frustration with the bookmarks falling out of his hymnal led to the invention of Post-it notes. Fry’s eureka moment came during a sermon when he recalled a presentation about an extremely weak glue whose practical application he originally dismissed. Putting two unrelated ideas together, Fry created a whole new product category.
- The second type of creativity requires concentration and focus. It’s the result of hard work and effort. This process calls to mind Thomas Edison’s quote that “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Here, Lehrer uses the example of graphic designer Milton Glaser who created the iconic I Love NY design. His client approved his first submission. Glaser could have easily moved on to a new project but he wasn’t satisfied. He kept working and achieved a breakthrough, adding the widely imitated red heart in the center of the slogan.
What to do, what to do
According to Lehrer, relaxation or taking a break enhances our ability to free our imaginations and be receptive to that flash of insight. On the other hand, when concentration is required, staying at our desks and continuing to power through can lead to an innovative solution.
Lehrer says our mind will help us determine the approach needed, which depends on the creative problem at hand. “The good news is that the human mind has a surprising natural ability to assess the kind of creativity we need.”
Like other creativity experts, Lehrer notes the importance of deepening our knowledge base and diversifying our networks to improve our abilities for insights and innovative thinking.
As part of the book preview, Lehrer offers 10 creativity hacks. From the benefits of the color blue to the advantages of moving from a small town to a big city, these research-based tips are worth trying for anyone who wants to up their creativity quotient.
Now it’s your turn. Do you agree with Lehrer that we all have creative potential? Are you more familiar with the flash of insight or creative solutions as the result of hard work?
Many thanks to Salady for her lightbulb photo via Flickr.
You might also enjoy How to Use Design Thinking to Become a Creative Problem Solver.