The Essence of Creativity

on Sep 26, 2011

Many folks consider me to be a creative person – that creativity is one of my more positive traits. Although endearing, I always found the compliment to be awkward because I feel that all people can be creative – that it doesn’t require being in a special class of individuals. I recently came across this quote on creativity by Steve Jobs. He’s pretty much spot on:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask a creative person how they did something, they may feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after awhile. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or have thought more about their experiences than other people have.

Creativity is indeed about putting ideas together. The more ideas you have (and the more varied they are), the more “parts” you have to work with in forming new ones. That’s really it. The upshot is that this makes creativity more a skill that can be developed than a talent that one is fortunate to be born with (though I suppose it helps to some degree to have a pattern mind).

The opportunity to develop creativity is better than ever before, considering the world of knowledge available to us today. But it requires an open mind. It means accepting different perspectives. It demands questioning what’s conventional. These are not easy things to do, but the payoff is massive. Creativity allows us to find wonder in new places. It provides us that aha! moment when we come up with a better way to design something. Most importantly, it instills progress. The “gift” of creativity isn’t about the individual – rather, the gift is what creativity gives us and the world.