This question originally appeared on Quora, the knowledge-sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.
Answer by Paul King, director of data science at Quora, computational neuroscientist:
Children have a more active imagination than adults, and young adults are less constrained by their own prior patterns of thought.
As people become “good at life,” they develop habits of thought that serve them well. These habits are thought styles that “work” (get results, impress people, carry us through difficult situations). As we accumulate “thought techniques,” three things happen.
First, we become more effective and able to “effortlessly” (mindlessly?) navigate tricky waters.
Second, we adapt to social norms and accepted ways of thinking, making us more effective with people and society.
Third, we become a prisoner of our own success. Sticking with what works makes us both more successful and less creative. Why be random when you can be right? Unfortunately what works is what worked in the past and misses the enigmatic paths that lead to unexpected surprises.
People who are in creative professions develop personal systems to stay creative. They develop predictable habits that take them into unpredictable territory. This is a lifestyle choice to stay in the uncomfortable territory of the unknown. They may seek out people outside their profession, read random things, or force themselves to brainstorm whimsically. This systemization of creativity doesn’t have the bizarre arc of childhood imagination, but does combine life experience with creativity in a way that can be more impactful (and higher paying) in modern society.
Why are younger people more creative? originally appeared on Quora.
1. "Keeping in step with lifehacks for creativity...." In response to Reply # 0
MIND The Inspiration Paradox: Your Best Creative Time Is Not When You Think
Morning people have more insights in the evening. Night owls have their breakthroughs in the morning
By Cindi May on March 6, 2012
A bus company in China has launched a new “safe driving” campaign by suspending bowls of water over their drivers. To avoid getting wet, drivers must drive gently. In today’s technology-obsessed world, this solution is elegantly primitive. You might imagine that this simple yet ingenious idea was conjured by someone functioning at their very best, that such “aha insights” come when innovators are at their peak.
Not so. A recent study by Mareike Wieth and Rose Zacks suggests that innovation and creativity are greatest when we are not at our best, at least with respect to our circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms determine whether you are a “morning-type” person or an “evening-type” person, and are often measured with a short paper-and-pencil test called the Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire. Circadian rhythms drive daily fluctuations in many physiological processes like alertness, heart rate and body temperature. Recent research indicates that these rhythms affect our intellectual functioning too.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that our best performance on challenging, attention-demanding tasks - like studying in the midst of distraction - occurs at our peak time of day. When we operate at our optimal time of day, we filter out the distractions in our world and get down to business.
In a study I conducted, for example, participants were given three related cue words (e.g., SHIP OUTER CRAWL), and were required to find their common link (SPACE). When misleading distractors were presented with the cue words (e.g., SHIP-ocean OUTER-inner CRAWL-baby), those tested at non-optimal times were more likely to be misled by the distractors and showed lower solution rates. Those tested at peak times were not affected by the distraction. In this and related studies, peak-time benefits are most robust when distraction would disrupt our thought processes and cause errors.
But distraction is not all bad, and Wieth and Zacks have demonstrated that we can use our increased susceptibility to distraction at off-peak times to our advantage. In their study, they asked participants to solve analytic problems and insight problems at peak or off-peak times. Analytic problems generally require people to “grind out a solution” by systematically working through the problem utilizing a consistent strategy. Here is a classic analytic problem: “Bob’s father is 3 times as old as Bob. They were both born in October. 4 years ago, he was 4 times older. How old are Bob and his father?” No innovation or creativity necessary to solve this problem; one simply has to work it out mathematically.
Insight problems, on the other hand, often initially mislead the solver. Finding the right answer requires the solver to abandon the original interpretation and seek alternatives. Insight problems often involve an “Aha!” moment where the answer comes all at once, rather than via a systematic, incremental calculation. Here is a classic insight problem: “A dealer in antique coins got an offer to buy a beautiful bronze coin. The coin had an emperor’s head on one side and the date 544 BC stamped on the other. The dealer examined the coin, but instead of buying it, he called the police. Why?”
Insight problems involve thinking outside the box. This is where susceptibility to “distraction” can be of benefit. At off-peak times we are less focused, and may consider a broader range of information. This wider scope gives us access to more alternatives and diverse interpretations, thus fostering innovation and insight. Indeed, Wieth and Zacks found that participants were more successful in solving insight problems when tested at their non-optimal times.
Other studies show similar results. Consider the task of finding the common link among three cue words (SHIP OUTER CRAWL). If the distraction presented alongside those cue words is not misleading (SHIP-ocean OUT-inner CRAWL-baby), but instead is helpful (e.g., SHIP-rocket OUTER-atmosphere CRAWL-attic), participants tested at off-peak times benefit from that distraction and solve more problems. Those tested at peak times do not solve more problems with helpful distraction, presumably because they filter out all distraction, even when it might be beneficial.
Thus, being at your best may be over-rated, at least for people seeking innovative ideas or creative solutions. To be sure, if your task requires strong focus and careful concentration - like balancing spreadsheets or reading a textbook - you are better off scheduling that task for your peak time of day. However, if you need to open your mind to alternative approaches and consider diverse options, it may be wise to do so when your filter is not so functional. You just may be able to see what you’ve been missing.
In case you are reading this article at your peak time and are struggling with your “aha moment,” coins were never dated BC because no one knew when (or if) Christ was coming. Are you a scientist who specializes in neuroscience, cognitive science, or psychology? And have you read a recent peer-reviewed paper that you would like to write about? Please send suggestions to Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist at the Boston Globe. He can be reached at garethideas AT gmail.com or Twitter @garethideas.
Everyone is creative, but in very different ways and to varying degrees.
Posted Oct 03, 2017
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding this question that largely stems from the question of degree. I’d say yes, people’s creative abilities can be improved. However, it’s unlikely you’re going to become a creative genius like Einstein or Mozart without some natural talent.
Is everyone creative? Sure they are, but in very different ways and to varying degrees. Our democratic longing to make everyone and everything equal has led us to make creative greatness indistinguishable from an act of personal expression. What is lacking is meaningful appreciation of the different levels of creativity and how we can use them as steps for increasing our own creative potential. Below are the five levels and types of creativity, from the easiest to the most difficult to master, along with suggestions for building creative muscle:
Mimetic Creativity: Mimesis is a term passed down to us from the Ancient Greeks meaning to imitate or mimic. This is the most rudimentary form of creativity. To improve mimetic creativity, travel to new places and meet new people. Be sure to look for patterns and benchmarks, as well as indicators of success or failure so that you have good ideas about what really works and doesn’t and why.
Biosociative Creativity: Biosociative is a term coined by the novelist Arthur Koestler in his celebrated book, The Art of Creation, to describe how our conscious mind, when relaxed, can connect rational with intuitive thoughts to produce eureka moments. Biosociative creativity occurs when a familiar idea is connected to an unfamiliar one to produce a novel hybrid. Brainstorming is an excellent example of biosociative creativity. You can find a variety of brainstorming methods to boost biosociative creativity on my website.
Analogical Creativity: Analogical creativity uses analogies to transfer information that we believe we understand in one domain, the source, to help resolve a challenge in an unfamiliar area, the target. In essence, analogies are bridges that allow our cognitive processes to quickly transport clusters of information from the unknown to the known, and back again. Analogies can also be used to disrupt habit-bound thinking to make way for new ideas. You can develop your analogical creativity through the “imaginary friend” role storming method whereby you imagine what someone might say or do if faced with a particular challenge.
Narratological Creativity: At its essence, narratological creativity is the art of storytelling. Our personal stories are perhaps the ultimate use of narratological creativity as we invent and reinvent the story of our life. In this way something that is deeply personal becomes allegorical or of mythic significance. You can improve your narratological creativity by practicing the art of storyboarding or by engaging in scenario making to project potential courses of action.
Intuitive Creativity: This final and most challenging level of creativity has often been promoted to the realm of spiritual and wisdom traditions. This is where creativity becomes bigger and possibly beyond us; it transcends our individuality. There are several methods for freeing and emptying the mind—meditation, yoga and chanting to name a few. The basic idea is to distract and relax the mind to create a flow state of consciousness where ideas come easily. The approaches to developing intuitive creativity are too numerous to chronicle here; however, free writing is a straightforward way to connect us with our intuitive self by simply observing what flows out of the pen or the tapping of the keys.
As with any learned ability, you have to practice. Even creative geniuses practice all the time. The following article from Fortune Magazine is a good place to find out more. This video about the five levels of creativity may also be helpful.
Here are five levels and types of creativity, from the easiest to the most difficult to master.
By Jeff Degraff Sep 13th, 2013 5:32 PM ET
(TheMIX) — Is everyone creative? Sure they are, but in very different ways and to varying degrees. There is a big difference between the folksong you wrote for your college sweetheart and a Beethoven symphony.
Our democratic longing to make everyone and everything equal has lead us to make creative greatness indistinguishable from an act of personal expression. What is lacking is meaningful appreciation of the different levels of creativity and how we can use them as steps for increasing our own potential.
Here are five levels and types of creativity, from the easiest to the most difficult to master.
Mimesis is a term passed down to us from the Ancient Greeks meaning to imitate or mimic. This is the most rudimentary form of creativity. Animals from Caledonian crows to orangutans have the ability to create tools simply by observing other creatures. Watch a mother and child together and it becomes clear that we do the same. It is the foundation of the learning process.
An often-overlooked form of creativity is simply taking an idea from one area or discipline and applying it to another. For example, a physician at the Mayo Clinic who wants to improve the patient experience may pay a visit to a Ritz-Carlton, which is known for its customer service.
The late Apple (AAPL, -0.06%) co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs saw this ability to move across boundaries to adapt ideas as the key to useful creativity: “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”
“Bisociative” is a term coined by the novelist Arthur Koestler in his celebrated book The Act of Creation to describe how our conscious mind can connect rational with intuitive thoughts to produce so-called Eureka moments. In the Zen tradition, this act of communion is called Satori, meaning sudden enlightenment. Bisociative creativity occurs when a familiar idea is connected to an unfamiliar one to produce a novel hybrid.
Though connecting ideas is often done through more contemplative means, it can be stimulated by bombarding the mind with a barrage of random thoughts to see what catches. The general description for this type of activity is called brainstorming. For example, in 1994, while coming out of a near bankruptcy experience and working on Toy Story, four of the original Pixar directors had lunch at a diner and brainstormed ideas about movies they wanted make. Building on each other’s concepts, from this one informal meeting came A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, and WALL-E. Hollywood outsiders changed the motion picture industry in an afternoon of throwing ideas together.
Bisociative creativity builds on the electrifying dynamics of the three F’s:
Fluency – It is more productive to have lots of unpolished ideas than a few “good” ones because the greater the diversity of ideas, the wider the range of possible solutions
Flexibility – Often we have the “right” idea but we’ve put it in the “wrong” place so we have to move them around to see where they best fit to meet our challenges
Flow – We aren’t creative on demand. We need to be both simulated and relaxed to draw out the energy required to create. Ideas pour out smoothly when we get into a groove
Great innovators, from Archimedes in his bathtub to Einstein riding his elevator of relativity, have used analogies to solve complex problems. We use analogies to transfer information that we believe we understand in one domain (the source) to help resolve a challenge in an unfamiliar area (the target). For example, vacuum cleaner design was largely unchanged for nearly a century when inventor James Dyson used a different analogue — cyclones — to separate particles through the spinning force of a centrifuge.
Analogies can be used to disrupt habitual thinking to make way for new ideas. In the same way that an analogy helps us make sense of our experiences by assimilating what we don’t know into what we do know, the process also works in reverse. That is, we can take something we believe we know and use an analogy to make it unknown. Artists call this defamilarization. Albert Camus frequently narrated his stories from the point of view of a housefly. Consider what your strategy development process would look like if it were done from the point of view of your children instead of your shareholders or customers.
Have you ever heard a child try to get a story straight? Or maybe you have a dear friend who always blows the punch line of a good joke. Both are examples of how hard it is to tell a coherent, meaningful and compelling tale.
Stories are a complex mash up of characters, actions, plots, description, and grammar. Most importantly, they have a narrative voice — our voice — authentic or personified. How we tell the tale can either energize the most mundane anecdote or dampen even the most rousing spellbinder.
Narrative is a story communicated in sequence. It is how the tale is told. Stories can be readily deconstructed and reconstructed to make different versions or new concoctions. For example, many American’s first drank Dos Equis beer in the 1970s during their college years while on winter break in California or Mexico. It wasn’t exactly a premium brand. Then the Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Brewery, which had been in business since 1900, changed the story of the product with an advertising campaign about “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” This character was a combination of James Bond and Ernest Hemmingway and the commercials chronicled his manly feats of derring-do. By changing the narrative, Dos Equis experienced explosive growth in a shrinking market.
This is where creativity becomes bigger and possibly beyond us. Intuition is about receiving ideas as much as generating them. There are several methods for freeing and emptying the mind — meditation, yoga, and chanting to name a few. The basic idea is to distract and relax the mind to create a flow state of consciousness where ideas come easily. Disciples are typically apprenticed by acknowledged gurus and often take years to master these techniques.
Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian Nobel Laureate, developed some meditative practices specifically to enhance personal creativity, as did Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the Waldorf education system. The approaches to intuitive creativity are too numerous to chronicle here. They range from autonomic writing to taking mind altering drugs (not recommended).
You may not be a Shakespeare, Rembrandt, or Leonardo, but you can always work to increase your own creative capacity. All of these approaches are within your power — you just have to keep trying new things. Remember, a creative life means you make it up as you go along.
is a professor, author, speaker and advisor to hundreds of organizations. You can follow Jeff at