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.
The science of creativity is relatively new. Until the Enlightenment, acts of imagination were always equated with higher powers. Being creative meant channeling the muses, giving voice to the gods. (“Inspiration” literally means “breathed upon.”) Even in modern times, scientists have paid little attention to the sources of creativity.
But over the past decade, that has begun to change. Imagination was once thought to be a single thing, separate from other kinds of cognition. The latest research suggests that this assumption is false. It turns out that we use “creativity” as a catchall term for a variety of cognitive tools, each of which applies to particular sorts of problems and is coaxed to action in a particular way.
It isn’t a trait that we inherit in our genes or a blessing bestowed on us by the angels. It’s a skill that anyone can learn and work to improve.
Does the challenge that we’re facing require a moment of insight, a sudden leap in consciousness? Or can it be solved gradually, one piece at a time? The answer often determines whether we should drink a beer to relax or hop ourselves up on Red Bull, whether we take a long shower or stay late at the office.
The new research also suggests how best to approach the thorniest problems. We tend to assume that experts are the creative geniuses in their own fields. But big breakthroughs often depend on the naive daring of outsiders. For prompting creativity, few things are as important as time devoted to cross-pollination with fields outside our areas of expertise.
Turns out customizing video game controllers for gaming addicts who want to shoot faster can be a decent business. Tim Erven says his five-year-old venture, Custom Gaming in Whippany, New Jersey, has been profitable since he started it, with revenue around $300,000 in 2011, and some 250 orders a week now, mostly through its Amazon storefront.
To keep up with demand, the 22-year-old has been trying to get banks to lend him as little as $10,000 to improve his website and rent a warehouse near his home. The six banks he’s approached have rejected his applications because of his age and because he hadn’t gotten a business loan before, even though his tax returns show profits and his parents were willing to put up their home as collateral. “From what the banks told me, asking for 10 percent of my annual revenue was reasonable, and what tends to be conventional, but even by decreasing the amount I was seeking I was still unable to obtain approval,” says Erven, who juggles balances on six credit cards to manage cash flow.
The economy grew slightly faster than initially thought in the fourth quarter and a gauge of factory activity in the Midwest hit a 10 month-high in February, pointing to underlying strength in the economy.
Gross domestic product expanded at a 3 percent annual rate, the quickest pace since the second quarter of 2010, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday in its second estimate.
The reading, which was up from the 2.8 percent pace the government reported last month and reflected modest upward revisions to almost all components of GDP, added to the recent run of fairly upbeat economic reports.
The tone of the GDP report was further bolstered by upward revisions to income and savings data, which should help support consumer spending in the face of rising gasoline prices.
U.S. small businesses that initially rushed to Chinese factories to get their products made are now dumping them for American manufacturers.
And the shift is gaining traction, said industry experts who match U.S. small companies with domestic firms.