I have a question for you. What’s the most important resource that humans have? Without it, nothing new could ever happen.
Think about it… It’s creativity. Think for a moment, it’s because of creativity humans have come so far from jungles. We have progressed so much over the decades. Without creativity, we would repeat the same pattern again and again. And nothing new can ever happen then.
Now a lot of questions are floating on the mind. What is actually Creativity? Where does it come from? Is it something only for a few gifted people or anyone can learn to be creative?
Ok, let’s address them one by one. In layman language ‘ We understand Creativity as the ability to generate new ideas, new connections between different ideas and applying those to solve problems in any field or realm of our lives’.
Creativity is the greatest asset humankind have. It’s never a one-track answer to explain where does it come from. People have various explanations but I believe creativity comes from our need to survive and constantly improve with evolution. It’s to cope up with life’s uncertainty and be in control. It’s due to creative thinking we have made our survival so easy.
There is no doubt we have to think more creatively to progress with time. However, the biggest question is what’re the criteria for being creative? Can anyone become creative or it’s just a few people on the earth?
Think about your childhood, when you were a small kid. Were you creative? Of course, Children’s are always creative although we may not notice it every time. But then what happens as we grow older, as we become an adult. Most of us start believing, creativity is a gift to a few people. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Do you also think the same way?
Let’s see what our scientific studies say us. How to be creative?
There are two schools of thoughts on this. According to one group of people
To contribute creatively in any field, one must have detailed knowledge and skillsets in that particular field. The time and skills required to become master in any field are too great for any individual to become an expert at more than one field in one lifetime. According to them, People who are polymaths (previous post on Polymaths) or multitalented are rare and gifted. Creativity arises from an intense focus on any single domain. In fact, for them learning more than one area is a distraction for creativity. In short, these people believe in-
“Jack of all trades, master of none”
There is another group of people who think, creativity is not limited to any single domain but it’s the transfer of knowledge, skill, and experience from one field to another. According to them-
“The more Creative a person is, the more varied their interests are”
Confused about who is right. Ok, let’s look back to the history of some of most creative people on the earth and how they were.
We all know Charlie Chaplin as a great actor and director but he was also a professional dancer, musician, and photographer. Bertrand Russel, a world-class mathematician also won a Noble prize in literature for his writings. Linus Pauling won two Noble prizes, one for chemistry and another in peace for his efforts to ban on atmospheric nuclear testing. Hannes Alfven wrote a bestselling science fiction novel called ‘The Great Computer’- the prototype of Matrix movies more than a decade before he won a Noble Prize in Physics.
There were many more people like that. Of course, how can we forget Leonardo Da Vinci.
Looking at above examples one group of people will say ‘Oh, they are gifted people who excelled in more than one field’.
However, there are a greater number of people who although are skilled at more than one field but not known to the world for all their skills. They have not developed all their skills to the professional level.
Take, for example, Albert Einstein. The whole world knows him for his intellectual ability to define the universe in terms of Physics. But very few people probably know about his passion for music. And no, music was just not a hobby to him as you might think. In one of his interview, he said- “ If I were not a physicist, I would be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I get most joy in life out of music.”
His son Hans Einstien once said- “Whenever he (Einstien) had come to an end of the road or in a difficult situation in his work, he would take refuge in music and that would usually resolve all his difficulties.”
Now you know music was not just a mere hobby to Einstien. He had pursued music throughout his life. Einstein even told once Shinichi Suzuki, the famous inventor of the Suzuki method for teaching music, that – “The theory of relativity occurred to me by intuition, and music is the driving force behind this intuition. My parents had me study the violin from the time I was six. My new discovery is the result of musical perception.”
He himself once told that he never thought in logical symbols or mathematical equations but in images, feelings and musical architecture that have no domain-specific identities.
This reminds me of another great mathematician Srinivas Ramanujan who said- “A mathematical equation means nothing to me unless it expresses a thought of God”
Nobel Laureates in science from van’t Hoff to Peter Debye to Roald Hoffman (and many more) again and again said that ‘ having interests in diverse domains (whether it’s painting, poetry, writing or anything) shaped their scientific thinking. In another way, scientific thinking has played an important role in the thinking of many Nobel Laureates in Literature
In fact, the great minds never differentiate among disciplines. As Einstien once said-
‘ The greatest scientists are artists as well’
What the discussion about polymaths shows us is knowledge and skills in various fields provides us a great platform for being creative. It increases our chance to think something different and new. But opportunity, persistence, environment and other factors determine whether multiple skills will actually manifest and we can pursue that professionally also. Some individuals find the opportunity and environment in multiple fields to apply their diverse abilities. There are many examples as discussed above also where people have many skills but known to the world for a particular skill. Just like Einstien, Max-Planck and Heisenberg were also talented musicians (pianist). However, they are known to most of us as only great scientists. But they never left their music avocation as Max-Planck also believed-
” The creative scientist needs artistic imagination”
The whole point all these discussions is what’s the better way of being creative (Yes, we all are creative). Which school of thought you belong to? If I have to answer this
Focus and attention is, of course, necessary for creating something new but at the same time, sticking to just one idea or area very early in life may not be a good idea. It can work as detrimental to creativity as it will make you think only in one dimension. The best way would be to explore and learn from different domains (which interests you) and connecting to all those knowledge and skills together with intensive focus. This way chances of creating something new in any field would increase by many folds as all the great minds have shown us.
What characterizes creative individuals is their ability to find connections among apparently unrelated domains of activity- artist in a scientist, scientist in an artist etc. Polymathy is not only possible but necessary for being a creative individual.
We all are born as a creative, let’s revive that creativity.
Have a creative week. Until next week -Joy♥