Can Creativity Be Learned?
Is creativity and intelligence the same thing? How does our brain process thoughts, feelings, ideas, questions and answers? Can creativity be learned and if so how? The study of “thinking” and “creativity” has been an area of study by the science community for some time, and over the last decade or so has gained significant traction.
As a movement coach, my professional focus is aimed at the knowledge and application of biomechanics, addressing movement compensation and approaching the health-first model with corrective prescription. With that being said we know, that movement is a behaviour; therefore I spend a great deal of my study in the arena of human behaviour and behaviour modification. What we also know is that can be re shaped; with another growing field of study called neuroplasticity. It all boils down to adaptation and the right stimulus. How we approach thinking is first and foremost.
Dr. Jung, an assistant research professor in the department of neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico, explains; “The brain appears to be an efficient superhighway that gets you from Point A to Point B” when it comes to intelligence. But in the regions of the brain related to creativity, there appears to be lots of little side roads with interesting detours, and meandering little byways.”
Although intelligence and skill are generally associated with the fast and efficient firing of neurons, many studies have shown that subjects who tested high in creativity had thinner white matter and connecting axons that have the effect of slowing nerve traffic in the brain. This slowdown in the left frontal cortex, a region where emotional and cognitive abilities are integrated, some believe might allow for the linkage of more out of the box thinking ideas, novelty and creativity. Creativity seems to take a more meandering path to a specific decision, where intelligence looks for the most efficient and readily available answer.
Contextually we can look at the thought process as one highway or another; meaning either “convergent or linear thinking” vs. “divergent or lateral” thinking – a fork in the road. “Convergent” and “divergent” thinking represent two different ways of looking at the world, but what’s the difference?
Convergent is a form of the word “converging” meaning to “come together.” A convergent thinker sees a limited, predetermined number of options; a set number of options predetermined from their previous education and experience of the world. Convergent thinking is what you engage in when you answer a multiple choice question (although, in real life, we often only see two choices). This style of thinking is known as linear thinking.
Example of Convergent Thinking:
What rhymes with brick?
The most logical answer is the correct answer.
By contrast, divergent means “developing in different directions;” therefore, divergent thinking offers you the available to open your mind to alternate possibility in different directions. It leads you to look for options that aren’t necessarily apparent at first. A divergent thinker is looking for options as opposed to choosing among predetermined ones.
Divergent or lateral thinking, is the ability to think creatively, or “outside the box;” which sometimes involves discarding the obvious, leaving behind traditional modes of thought, and throwing away preconceptions.
Example of Divergent Thinking:
Grab a timer and set it for one minute. Now list as many creative uses for a brick as you can imagine. Go.
The question is part of a classic test for creativity, a quality that scientists are trying for the first time to track in the brain. They hope to figure out precisely which biochemicals, electrical impulses and regions were used.
Over the past 30 years, Dr. Jung has relied on a common definition of creativity: the ability to combine novelty and usefulness in a particular social context. While I.Q. tests, though controversial, are still considered a reliable test of at least a certain kind of intelligence, there is no equivalent when it comes to creativity.
Creativity is a complex concept; it’s not a single thing, and most researchers can agree that no single measure for creativity exists. Creativity is a collection of different processes that work in different areas of the brain.
In New Mexico, using M.R.I. technology, researchers are monitoring what goes on inside a person’s brain while he or she engages in a creative task. Taking into consideration the biochemical, neurological, biological, and breakdown of nerve firing into parts and patterns. The findings are that the images of signals flashing across frontal lobes have pushed scientists to re-examine the very way creativity is measured in a laboratory. Creativity not only involves coming up with something new, but also with shutting down the brain’s habitual response, or letting go of conventional solutions. Leading us into the direction of unconventional solutions.
Ironically, in my line of work – the health and wellness industry – we have seen a surge of coaches and businesses leaning towards unconventional means of training, vs. the traditional strength and conditioning models. It seems almost serendipitous.
As a Movement Coach and Corrective Specialist, screening a client and building a baseline is key to any client’s success. On the macro level, I have to be somewhat linear in my approach; I must be organized, data driven, and adhere to a standard operating system, so that inter-rater reliability is upheld and a baseline is set for each client. However, on the micro level when addressing goals, performance metrics or corrective strategy I prefer to think outside the box and be creative. I have more opportunity to think unconventionally so that each client has the ability to use their brain to absorb information from our eyes, ears, and other senses – all of which, directly relate to changing movement and behavior.
Sources of Inspiration:
- ABC Series called “Re Design My Brain” – Creativity