Some Alternative Facts About Creativity

Artwork by Tim O'brien

Artwork by Tim O'brien

Let’s hope the current political climate doesn’t change our values when it comes to the importance of creativity. Banning the free exchange of ideas and restricting diversity of thought will only lead to a rising sea of failed efforts to make America creative again. I am offering the public an education on these transgressions with the hope of building a pathway to a greater understanding of the truth.

Alternative Fact: People are born with creative talent

Fact Check: Creativity is a skill. It is a teachable and learnable skill that improves with practice. There are numerous studies proving well-designed creativity training programs lead to an increase of creative output and creativity develops when deliberately nurtured. (1) In ‘Outliers,’ Malcom Gladwell writes about the 10,000 hour rule based on the research of Benjamin Bloom and Anders Ericsson. The rule states that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery of a task or field of knowledge. Think concert violinist practicing for hours since age 5 or Michael Jordan shooting thousands of foul shots over a lifetime in the gym.

Similarly, Harvard University’s Howard Gardner studied well known creatives such as Albert Einstein, T.S. Eliot, Pablo Picasso and Mahatma Gandhi. In his book, ‘Creating Minds,’ Gardner observed consistent patterns including the length of time it took before a creative breakthrough was reached. On average it took 10 years of exploring, experimenting, failing, reflection and revision to achieve a significant level of creative achievement.

Alternative Fact: Creativity = the arts

Fact Check: Creativity is not limited to painting, music, dance or other forms of artistic expression. Creativity can be found across all disciplines from auto repair to artificial intelligence; gardening to genetic engineering. If you have an ‘art bias’ when thinking about creativity, you are constricting the creative potential of a much wider audience. (2) Participating in the arts is a great way to enhance creativity abilities but it is by no means the only way develop creativity skills.

Alternative Fact: Businesses want creativity and innovation.

Fact Check: Most businesses are biased against new and creative ideas. In his book ‘The Myths of Creativity,’ author David Burkus discusses the “Mouse Trap” myth which is based on the belief that a good idea will be widely accepted and celebrated. ‘If you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door’ is not an accurate statement. Burkus cites numerous examples of innovations that historically, were rejected when first introduced; the digital camera, personal computers even going back in time to the first talking pictures. Great ideas can come from any level of an organization. Pushing ideas through entrenched hierarchies is a long tough road that many would be innovators exit before implementation. Finding utility in new ideas and processes have a difficult time fighting the mentality of “we have always done it this way.” Truly innovative organizations actively remove psychological biases and cultivate new ideas.

Finding Truth and Creativity

Both truth and creativity require a journey, a process and vigilant effort. Neither should be taken for granted or taken at face value without deeper inquiry. Businesses seeking creativity and innovation as a path to financial gain must guard against those who are threatened by new ways of operating. Creativity is a skill that all of us can nurture, develop and refine. The breadth of creativity extends well beyond the arts to include almost every form or human expression. Finally, the TRUTH is YOU are creative.


(1) Scott, Leritz and Mumford (2004); Parnes, (1987)

(2) Runco, M.A. (2007) Creativity: Theories and Themes: Research, development and practice.

As published in Grant County Beat