A Scientist Explains How Creativity Is MADENone By Orin C. Davis, Ph.D.
Over the years that I have been teaching creativity, I've found that the most important idea I want my students to learn is that they are capable of being creative—that is, producing novel and useful things and ideas. In past posts, I've written about why people should believe in their own creativity, and the mindset that facilitates creativity. But neither of these topics covers the actual mental functions that lead to creative production. Admittedly, we have a lot to learn about that, despite some amazing research by a good number of really fantastic scientists (among many others). Fortunately, a sweep of the scientific research highlights four processes that show how creativity is MADE:
Your experiences are among the primary aspects that make you unique. They give you a singular perspective, and also enable you to diverge from the normal and average. Memory allows you to bring to bear all that you have encountered so that you can extrapolate from it, recognize when something is familiar or new, or isolate relevant details, among many other processes. Using memory, you can either depart from the norm to engender the novel, or you can anchor the wild to make it useful.
Association is about finding points of commonality, such as by using analogies and metaphors, so that you can combine and recombine items in different contextual configurations in order to generate a product—one that is sufficiently unlike anything encountered previously, but grounded in the familiar and known. For instance, in 1948, George de Mestral went out into the mountains with his dog, and was rather curious about the cockleburs embedded both in the dog’s fur and in his pants. Looking at them under a microscope, de Mestr