What does science tell us about creativity?

Acclaimed science journalist Jonah Lehrer has written a new book entitled Imagine: How Creativity Works that sheds a fascinating light on the mysterious process known as “Creativity.” In a recent Wall Street Journal article, adapated from the book, he writes:

…Creativity is not magic, and there’s no such thing as a creative type. Creativity is not a trait that we inherit in our genes or a blessing bestowed by the angels. It’s a skill. Anyone can learn to be creative and to get better at it. New research is shedding light on what allows people to develop world-changing products and to solve the toughest problems. A surprisingly concrete set of lessons has emerged about what creativity is and how to spark it in ourselves and our work. Read the full article in the Wall Street Journal.

Our recent conversation in San Francisco (see videos) explored creativity in the orchestral world and this article provides an interesting scientific context for those discussions. It turns out that “creativity” can be much more of a learned behavior than you might think and the best approach to creativity can differ based on what type of problem you are trying to solve. (For us music enthusiasts, there’s a also a great anecdote about a young Yo-Yo Ma and the composer Bruce Adolphe at the end.)

Using this new research, is it possible to more methodically nurture creativity in our organizations? It almost sounds counter intuitive, but this new book suggest that the answer is yes.

Here is an interview with Jonah Lehrer and the Wall Street Journal‘s Gary Rosen.

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