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How did creativity become an engine of economic growth?

Defining creativity

In 1950, a leading psychologist lamented that only a small proportion of professional literature was concerned with creativity.

Within a decade, a 'creativity movement' developed. Seminars on 'creative engineering' were held, asking what creativity is, why it's important, what factors influence it, how it should be developed. There was never a consensus about whether particular definitions were right, but sentiment settled around a substantive link between creativity and the idea of divergent thinking. People were thought to be creative if they could branch out and imagine a range of possible solutions.

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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.

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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.

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.

Labels are important
Labels are important

But they are also harmful if we use them incorrectly. When it comes to categories like science and art, we tend to presume mutual exclusivity.

Albert Einstein inspired ...

Don’t wait for inspiration

Breakthroughs are seldom made through sudden inspiration. Insight is the result of action. Doing creative work is about setting a schedule and getting on with it. Eventually, the combination of your effort will energize the push towards a final result.

Albert Einstein worked at a Swiss patent office, a rather uninspiring place relative to his interest in physics. Between the hours he spent on the job, he also dedicated hours to scientific work. He was deliberate in his commitment to creation, which led to the formulation of the two fundamental theories in physics: general relativity and quantum mechanics.

Seeking connections between existing ideas

Creativity is not equivalent to originality. Creativity is just a new way of combining old ideas.

Albert Einstein saw invention as a product of "combinatory play." He would separate his existing ideas from language, so he could freely visualise and mix these known elements of information to arrive at some new logically connected concept.