Creativity: From Ancient Myth to Modern Science
“Where does creativity come from?” That deceptively simple question has fascinated humankind for millennia, spawning elaborate theories about why some people possess remarkable creative gifts while others seem to lack them entirely. The Ancient Greeks believed that goddesses known as the Muses bestowed creative inspiration upon select mortals. The Romantic poets believed that the natural world bestowed creativity upon the solitary genius who immersed himself fully in it. Freud advanced a darker view of creativity, proposing that it welled up from desires and conflicts deeply rooted in our unconscious minds.
As proponents of design thinking — or human-centric creative problem-solving — we at the O’Briant Group devote ourselves to studying how people and organizations can become more creative, find innovative solutions to problems, and adapt better to evolving challenges. Answering the age-old question “Where does creativity come from?” is fundamental to our work. To that end, we’ve been studying the latest neuroscientific research, which offers fresh insights into the origins of creativity and how we can stimulate it.
The MRI Revolution
Centuries ago, people could only think about the mind and imagine how it worked. But now, with modern MRI technology at their disposal, researchers can look inside the brain and study its complex responses to physical, mental, and emotional stimuli. The latest neuroscience contradicts the longstanding — but still culturally prevalent — belief that creativity is bestowed only on a few select geniuses; it suggests that we all have extraordinary creative potential, and, moreover, we can cultivate that potential through deliberate practice.
The key to creativity is divergent thinking, a style of thought that enables us to generate new ideas, see familiar problems in different ways, or combine ideas into something entirely new. Sometimes divergent thinking produces unexpected insights, as when we experience an “Aha!” moment while in the shower or walking the dog. But we don’t need to sit around and wait for insight to strike — we can practice divergent thinking, stimulate our creative capacity, and make those breakthrough moments more likely.
A recent study examined whether focused training in divergent thinking can improve creativity-related performance. The conclusion was a resounding yes. Furthermore, when the researchers investigated the MRI data for specific training-induced structural changes to the brain, they found strong evidence of neuroplasticity associated with the improvements. In other words, brain training in divergent thinking reshapes the brain itself.
Anyone Can Be More Creative
Evidence from the research is overwhelming. Anyone can become more creative. The O’Briant Group is translating that cutting-edge research into innovative training programs that can stimulate your creativity — or that of your management team, or even your entire organization.
Reach out to ask how the O’Briant Group can help you and your organization become more innovative and successful.