Creativity: Nature or Nurture?

Creativity: Nature or Nurture?

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m just not creative—I don’t have a creative bone in my body”? Maybe you’ve said that. Well guess what? Creativity isn’t something you’re born with. 

I guess on some level we think our brains are limited. Or that God gave us all different abilities or inclinations.

(Or maybe Oprah.)


(Or maybe Oprah.)

The creative unicorn

Many think creativity is a mystical beast, untamed, subject to whim. Those deemed “creative” are special, the unicorns of humanity. But research has found that nurture, not nature, determines our levels of creativity. And claiming creativity can’t be taught is adding to its mysticism. 

A recent study compared the brains of veteran writers to those of novice writers and found the experienced writers’ brains all acted in a “more streamlined, emotionally literate, and initially filtered” (read: creative) way. Were creativity something natural, the scans would have found distinct similarities in young writers and old. In reality, creativity is something we are all born with but lose if we don't use it.

Why do I feel uncreative?

“But truly, I don’t think my brain works that way,” you might say. What might be hindering your creative flow?

Probably social conditioning. From the day we’re born we’re taught what to do, where to go, what is right, how to think—so much that we don’t do a lot of thinking on our own. Research has found this problem has been occurring for a while, possibly due to standardized testing that encourages students to conform rather than stand out. Ken Robinson, a renowned author and educator, argues in a TED talk that schools crush students’ innate creativity. Jack Goncalo from Cornell University says, The environments where people are taught to fit in and not stand out—we should intervene on that.” Maybe your creativity has been so stifled you don’t know how to find it.

Brainstorm

This stifling has led many to start teaching creativity as a skill. Gerard Puccio chairs the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State University and teaches classes on creativity. Puccio teaches that creativity flows in four stages: clarifying, ideating, developing, and implementing. The ideating stage involves the most innovative thinking, and one method Puccio uses is brainstorming. He says, “The idea is to force the brain out of a purely analytical state in which it tends to focus on one solution and ignore other options.” One of the best ways to be creative is to, essentially, think outside the box.

Chill out

In addition to brainstorming, the other thing you can do to aid your creative process is relax. Rigid environments lead to focused, narrow modes of thought. It’s when you feel mellow and calm that you allow your mind to wander, and that’s when your creativity can flow. If you need to be creative at your job, make sure your workspace is conducive to creativity.

What does this have to do with marketing?

In order for your marketing to be successful, it has to be creative. It has to be outside the box because you need people to take notice. If your marketing looks the same as everyone else's, it won't make you stand out from the crowd. And because creativity is a skill that must be honed, not something innate, it's possible for even you to break out of the norm and find solutions that work, even if they're unconventional. The most obvious answer is not always the best one. 


About the Author

Autumn Nicholson.jpg

I'm Autumn Nicholson, Director of Internet Marketing. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in English and took the first editing job I could find, at a marketing company in South Carolina. I joined Farmore Marketing in 2014 to put my internet marketing experience to good use—and to spend more time on the beach. I invest much of my time volunteering for nonprofits, reading, and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix. You can connect with me here:

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