Creativity’s a skill, so get to it

Enough Steve Jobs already. The creative genius cult makes it so much harder for the rest of us.  In any case, a new book quotes Jobs as saying “creativity is just connecting things”, and while there’s no doubt the late Apple CEO did that superbly, Jonah Lehrer contends that creativity is not magic. “There’s no such thing as a creative type,” Lehrer says in Imagine: How Creativity Works. “Creativity is not a trait that we inherit in our genes or a blessing bestowed by the angels. It’s a skill. Anyone can learn to be creative and get better at it.” Lehrer’s book is the latest exploration of the fast-expanding body of research into the drivers of creativity, problem-solving and innovation. “We use ‘creativity’ as a catchall term for a variety of cognitive tools, each of which applies to particular sorts of problems and is coaxed into action in a particular way,” Lehrer says. Edward de Bono has been saying the same thing for decades. Back in 1985, he labelled creative thinking the green hat of his groundbreaking Six Thinking Hats, something all people could tackle. Yet, he added, it could be difficult because it goes against the brain’s natural tendency to set up patterns.  “Most thinkers like to be secure,” he wrote. “They like to be right. Creativity involves provocation, exploration and risk-taking.” As researchers Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton Christensen found in The Innovator’s DNA project, much thinking about creativity and innovation is based on fallacy. “Most of us believe that some people, like Jobs, are simply born with creative genes, while others are not,” they say. “If you believe this, we’re going to tell you that you are largely wrong. At least within the realm of business innovation, virtually everyone has some capacity for creativity and innovative thinking.”

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