What made Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein such creative geniuses? It wasn't reading books about How To Be More Creative, that's for sure.
The idea that creative people all sit in coffeehouses somewhere drinking lattes and scribbling genius ideas on their napkins is a myth. We tell ourselves, as a society, that a creative thought is as unique as a shooting star or a winning lottery ticket. Contrary to popular belief, one doesn’t need to be an artist to be creative. Each one of us is a special kind of artist. Every one of us is born a creative, spontaneous thinker. The only difference between people who are creative and people who are not is a simple belief. Creative people believe they are creative, they have a particular identity and set of beliefs about themselves and thus become interested in seeking out the skills needed to express their identity and beliefs. This is why people who believe they are creative become creative. If you believe you are not creative, then there is no need to learn how to become creative and you don't.
Startling insights, how systematically are they?
Science is only beginning to unravel the full complexity behind different forms of creative accomplishment; creativity is notoriously difficult to study in a laboratory setting, and the choice of one approach over another limits the way that creativity can be measured. Still, we do know that much of what we associate with creativity—whether writing a sonnet or a mathematical proof—has to do with the ability to link ideas, entities, and concepts in novel ways. This ability depends in part on a wandering, unfocussed mind.
In a recent research by Maria Konnikova in the New Yorker, she writes: "Creative insights and imaginative solutions often occur when we stop working on a particular problem and let our mind move on to something unrelated," Hence, focus isn't enough. We need the mind-wandering, too.
In one recent study, participants showed marked improvements on a task requiring creative thought—thinking of alternative uses for a common object, such as a newspaper—after they had engaged in a different, undemanding task that facilitated mind wandering. The more their mind wandered when they stepped away, the better they fared at being creative. In fact, the benefit was not seen at all when the subjects engaged in an unrelated but demanding task.
In other words, if startling insights could be systematically arrived at, they wouldn't be startling.
The challenge: a naturally “non creative” brain
Edward de Bono who has been teaching people of all ages how to think in more interesting, innovative and creative ways for nearly five decades, explains why the processes of deliberate creativity are not natural:
“The brain is specifically designed to be 'non creative'. If it were creative the brain would be utterly useless. It would be impossible to get up in the morning or to function at all. With only eleven items of clothing there are 39,916,800 ways of getting dressed. To go through these and to sort them out would take a lifetime. We do not need to because the brain simply switches us into the appropriate routine. That is the basis of perception and of action."