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The Creativity Post | How Geniuses Think

Intelligence is not genius

Intelligence is not genius

Genius is not about having an extraordinarily high IQ, or even about being smart. It is not about finishing Mensa exercises in record time or mastering fourteen languages at the age of seven.

Geniuses think productively, not reproductively. They ask "How many different ways can I look at it?" not "What have I been taught by someone else on how to solve this?"

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The Creativity Post | How Geniuses Think

The Creativity Post | How Geniuses Think

https://www.creativitypost.com/article/how_geniuses_think

creativitypost.com

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Key Ideas

Intelligence is not genius

Genius is not about having an extraordinarily high IQ, or even about being smart. It is not about finishing Mensa exercises in record time or mastering fourteen languages at the age of seven.

Geniuses think productively, not reproductively. They ask "How many different ways can I look at it?" not "What have I been taught by someone else on how to solve this?"

Geniuses and problem solving

Leonardo da Vinci believed you begin by learning how to restructure the problem by looking at it from many different angles.

In order to creatively solve a problem, the thinker should not use the usual approach that is based on past experience. Geniuses use several different perspectives to solve an existing problem and thereby also identify new ones.

Making your thoughts visible

_Galileo Galilei revolutionized science by making his idea visible with diagrams, maps, and drawings. Einstein believed that words and numbers as they are spoken did not play a significant role in his thinking process.

Geniuses seem to develop a skill to display information in visual and spatial forms, rather than only mathematical or verbal lines.

Geniuses produce

One characteristic that stands out in geniuses is immense productivity. Thomas Edison held 1,903 patents. Bach wrote a cantata every week, regardless of sickness. Mozart produced over 600 pieces of music. Einstein published 249 papers.

Out of the vast quantity of work came quality.

Forming unique combinations

Geniuses form more novel combinations than talented people.

They continually combine and recombine ideas, images, and thoughts into different combinations.

Connecting the unconnected

Geniuses force relationships that enable them to see things to which others are blind.

Leonardo da Vinci forced the relationship between the sound of a bell and a stone hitting water, to make the connection that sound travels in waves.

Thinking in opposites

Geniuses can tolerate contradictory ideas, between opposites or two incompatible subjects.

Mixing opposites creates the conditions to discover a new relationship or a new point of view.

Thinking metaphorically

  • Aristotle believed that the person who could see resemblances between two separate areas of existence and link them was a genius.
  • If unlike things are really alike in some ways, perhaps, they are so in others. Underwater construction was made possible by noticing how shipworms tunnel into timber by first constructing tubes.
  • Einstein used the analogies of everyday occurrences to explain abstract principles.

Creative accidents

Whenever we attempt to do something and fail, we end up doing something else.

Instead of asking why we failed to do what we intended, the creative accident asks 'what have we done?' This produces a creative insight of the highest order.

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Knowing how to think

Geniuses know “how” to think, instead of “what” to think.

People who are more creative can simultaneously engage brain networks that don’t typically work together.

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Creativity
The creative process is the act of making new connections between old ideas or recognizing relationships between concepts.

While being creative isn't easy, nearly all great ideas follow a sim...

The 5 Step Creative Process
  1. Gather new material directly related to your task as well as learning general material by becoming fascinated with a wide range of concepts.
  2. Thoroughly work over the materials in your mind.  Examine what you have learned by looking at the facts from different angles and experimenting with fitting various ideas together.
  3. Step away from the problem. Next, you put the problem completely out of your mind and go do something else that excites you and energizes you.
  4. Let your idea return to you. After you have stopped thinking about it, your idea will come back to you with a flash of insight and renewed energy.
  5. Shape and develop your idea based on feedback. For any idea to succeed, you must release it out into the world, submit it to criticism, and adapt it as needed.
Creativity is learned

Some people are primed to be more creative than others.

However, nearly every person is born with some level of creative skill and the majority of our creative thinking abilities are trainable.

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The lone genius is a myth

All great achievements involve some measure of collaboration.

Some geniuses were obvious partners - like Orville and Wilbur Wright, or Marie and Pierre Curie, or John ...

Creativity and collaboration
The interaction between people is indeed the fundamental engine of the creative process.

We are just not so aware of it, because much of the creative exchange happens quietly to the side, and does not become part of our modern history.

Remarkable creativity from one person

There is the case of Emily Dickinson. But looking closer, it becomes clear that she was immensely interested in people and wrote hundreds of poems for particular people, and sending them to them.

The big idea is that genius partnerships are stories of dialogue. As Warren Buffett said about Charlie Munger: "Charlie does the talking, I just move my lips."

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The right side of the brain
The right side of the brain

Creativity isn’t the preserve of one side of the brain, and it isn’t a talent confined to people with a special kind of brain. If you’re human and you’ve got a brain, you’re capabl...

The “Eureka!” moment

This myth encourages the belief that creativity is a passive process. It suggests you have to wait and hope that you’ll make a breakthrough.

That Eureka moment is actually the last step in a long, involved process and not the only step. For this to happen, your unconscious mind needs material to work with. You have to put in the hard work of studying and mastering your field and exposing yourself to different perspectives.

The lone, eccentric geniuses

In reality, creativity is a team sport.

The lone genius myth is a stereotype and it’s unhelpful because it suggests the route to innovation is to cut oneself off from colleagues and collaboration. You need a modest amount of intelligence to be creative, but extremely high IQ is neither sufficient nor necessary for being an innovator.

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The meaning of Genius

The true meaning of the word 'Genius' has been lost in translation in history.

Nowadays it is referred and related to 'achievement', which was not the original meaning. Real genius...

Genius And Genetics

It is a myth that genius parents have genius offspring.

There is no genius gene and genetics can be part of the mix, along with attitude, commitment, and a certain mind-set.

Genius And High IQ
Being a Genius does not equate a high intelligence quotient. Real, creative genius is less about intelligence and more about having an elevated vision.
Genius does not require encyclopedic knowledge or an impressive degree.

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The genius

Genius is too elusive and too subjective to be easily identified. It requires too many traits to be simplified.

However, we can try to understand it by looking at intellige...

Intelligence as a yardstick

Lewis Terman, who helped pioneer the IQ test, tracked over 1,500 Californian schoolkids with IQs above 140, which is the near-genius or genius mark.

40 after the study began, the researchers noted that a number of the study's participants struggled to thrive, despite their high IQ scores. Others tested for the study that did not have a high enough IQ, grew up to become renowned in their fields.

Creativity and genius

Creativity is a part of genius that can't really be measured, but that can be explained to a certain extent. One sign of creativity is being able to make connections between seemingly different concepts.

The 'aha moment' that arises at unexpected times, like in a dream or the shower, often emerges after a period of contemplation. Information comes in consciously, but the problem is managed subconsciously, resulting in a solution when the mind least expects it.

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Creative genius and madness
Creative genius and madness

There are many so-called mad geniuses in history. Suicide victims include Vincent Van Gogh or Ernest Hemingway. Creative geniuses who have succumbed to alcoholism or other addictions are legio...

Cognitive disinhibition

The creative genius tends to pay attention to things that normally should be ignored or filtered out.

People with schizophrenia are bombarded with hallucinations and delusions that should also be filtered out. However, creative genius differs from them in that the genius can separate bizarre fantasies from realistic possibilities. 

Normal and abnormal

Many geniuses walk the line between the normal and the abnormal. The many impulses and ideas they perceive are a fountain of creativity. However, rational thought does impose a limit on a person's concept of his relation to the world.

Restrict yourself

Research suggests placing self-imposed limitations can boost creativity. 

It forces your brain to come up with creative solutions to finish a project around the parameters you’ve ...

Re-conceptualize the problem

Instead of thinking of a cut-and-dry end goal to certain situations, creative people sit back and examine the problem in different ways before beginning to work.

If you find yourself stagnating by focusing on generic problems, try to re-conceptualize the problem by focusing on a more meaningful angle.

For example: Instead of thinking “What would be something cool to paint?” rather ask, “What sort of painting evokes the feeling of loneliness that we all encounter after a break-up?”

Create psychological distance

Creating “psychological” distance may be useful for breaking through a creative block.

Try to imagine your creative task as being disconnected and distant from your current position/location - this may make the problem more accessible and can encourage higher level thinking.

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Early History

The connection between genius and possible insanity was first documented in 1891 in the Italian physicians’ book The Man Of Genius.

In 1869, this was taken up by the cousin of Charles Darwi...

Genius and Heredity

In a 1904 study by English physician Havelock Ellis, a list was made of 1030 individuals through extensive research, examining thoroughly the intellectual distinction people had by the various factors like heredity, general health, and social class.


These works established that genius minds are often hereditary.

Genetic Studies Of Genius

A body of work of Stanford psychologist Lewis M. Terman, was an in-depth multi-decade study of gifted individuals, and an attempt to improve the measurement of genius and its association with the degradation of mental stability. This also included an enhanced version of the French IQ (Intelligence Quotient) test.

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Doing what you love is complicated

As kids, playing was described as fun while work was pretty much defined as not-fun. In school, it was implied that work was monotonous because it was in preparation for grownup work. Grownups a...

Bounds

Keep in mind this question: How much are you supposed to enjoy what you do? If you underestimate your answer, you'll tend to stop searching too early.

Liking your work does not mean doing what makes you happiest in this second, but what will make you most satisfied over a more extended period, like a week or a month. Your work should be your favorite thing to do. It should be something you admire.

What you should not do
  • Don't worry about the opinion of anyone beyond your friends.
  • Don't worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world. If you do anything well enough, you'll make it prestigious.
  • Don't be led astray by money, especially when money is combined with prestige.

A test of whether you love what you do is if you would do it even if you weren't paid for it. (Even if you had to work at another job to make a living.)

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