Amity Institute Of Training & Development

The Creative Mind

I wonder what makes people creative – Do they see things in some other dimensions? Do things or situations appear to them differently? Is it something in their genes? Is it a trait that everyone—not just creative “geniuses” like Picasso and Steve Jobs—possesses in some capacity? Can any body be creative? Is it all about having a different mindset? – Let’s explore together what is creativity and what mindset does it takes to be one.

Creativity is not just your ability to draw a picture or design a product. We all need to think creatively in our daily lives, whether it’s figuring out how to make dinner using leftovers or fashioning trendy costumes out of not so used clothes in your closet. Creativity is an amazing concept and a means which refers to a human capacity to produce or create something new through imaginative skills. In general, the term creativity refers to a richness of ideas and originality of thinking.

Does creativity stem from nothing? Of course not. All new ideas, products, art and music pieces, and works of literature owe their origin to ideas or products already in existence. Often these previous ideas and art forms directly inspire the future creator and innovator. Newton’s well-known adage that he was “standing on the shoulders of giants” was not simply false humility. Even for someone as great as Newton, creativity only springs forth from things already in existence. Mindset is one of those conditions that makes creative and innovative thought and behavior more likely in some people and less likely in others.

Psychology and neuroscience researchers have started to identify thinking processes and brain regions involved with creativity. Recent evidence suggests that creativity involves a complex interplay between spontaneous and controlled thinking – the ability to both spontaneously brainstorm ideas and deliberately evaluate them to determine whether they’ll actually work.

As per the research done by Roger Beaty from Harvard University, it was found that the brain regions within the “high-creative” network belonged to three specific brain systems: the default, salience, and executive networks. The default network is a set of brain regions that activate when people are engaged in spontaneous thinking, such as mind-wandering, daydreaming, and imagining. This network may play a key role in idea generation or brainstorming—thinking of several possible solutions to a problem. The executive control network is a set of regions that activate when people need to focus or control their thought processes. This network may play a key role in idea evaluation or determining whether brainstormed ideas will actually work and modifying them to fit the creative goal. The salience network is a set of regions that acts as a switching mechanism between the default and executive networks. This network may play a key role in alternating between idea generation and idea evaluation.

An interesting feature of these three networks is that they typically don’t get activated at the same time. For example, when the executive network is activated, the default network is usually deactivated. The results suggest that creative people are better able to co-activate brain networks that usually work separately. The findings indicate that the creative brain is “wired” differently and that creative people are better able to engage brain systems that don’t typically work together. Future research is needed to determine whether these networks are malleable or relatively fixed. Is it possible to boost general creative thinking ability by modifying network connections? Can Creative mindset be developed?

Once, a distinguished visitor to Henry Ford’s auto plants met him after an exhaustive tour of the factory. The visitor was lost in wonder and admiration. ‘It seems almost impossible, Mr Ford,’ he told the industrialist, ‘that a man, starting 25 years ago with practically nothing, could accomplish all this.’ Ford replied, ‘But that’s hardly correct. Every man starts with all there is. Everything is here – the essence and substance of all there is.’ The potential materials – the elements, constituents, or substances of which something can be made or composed – are all here in our universe. The same principle holds good in creative thinking as in creativity in general. Our creative imaginations must have something to work on. We do not form new ideas out of anything.

As Henry Ford said above, the raw materials are all there. To say that Thomas Edison invented electricity or that Albert Einstein discovered relativity is a convenient simplification. It satisfies our ancient predilection for stories that are easy to comprehend and involve superhuman heroes. But Edison’s or Einstein’s discoveries would be inconceivable without the prior knowledge, without the intellectual and social network that stimulated their thinking, and without the social mechanisms that recognized and spread their innovations. To say that the theory of relativity was created by Einstein is like saying that it is the spark that is responsible for the fire. The spark is necessary, but without air and tinder there would be no flame.

The creative mindset sees possibilities or connections that are invisible to less creative minds. You do not have to conjure up new ideas from the air. Your task as a creative thinker is to combine ideas or elements that already exist. If the result is an unlikely but valuable combination of ideas or things that hitherto were not thought to be linked, then you will be seen as a creative thinker. A genuinely creative accomplishment is almost never the result of a sudden insight, a lightbulb flashing on in the dark, but comes after years of hard work.

Each of us is born with two contradictory sets of instructions: a conservative tendency, made up of instincts for self-preservation, self-aggrandizement, and saving energy, and an expansive tendency made up of instincts for exploring, for enjoying novelty and risk—the curiosity that leads to creativity belongs to this set. We need both of these programs. But whereas the first tendency requires little encouragement or support from outside to motivate behavior, the second can wither if it is not cultivated. If too few opportunities for curiosity are available, if too many obstacles are placed in the way of risk and exploration, the motivation to engage in creative behavior is easily extinguished. At this point, let’s discuss as how we can develop creative mindset.

Being curious

When was the last time you felt curious about something? What are you curious about? Are there topics, subjects, jobs, ideas you think are a little interesting? Are there times when you watch something on the telly or hear someone talk about a subject and you light up?

You don’t have to change everything about your life to lead with curiosity. Next time you speak to someone, you can simply ask them to tell you more about themselves. Being genuinely curious about people, places, situations, phenomena, and many more helps us to delve more about it. It gives us the vigour to go deeper and deeper to understand the same, that leads us to know think differently and develop our insticts of exploring.

Practice Patience

Allow insights to come to you without forcing them or editing them. Creativity is chaotic, messy, and unorganized. After you ask the question, don't expect an immediate answer. Be patient. This step is about allowing the question to be there without your logical mind trying to capture an answer and packaging it into a neat box. The challenge here is to let go of the control of when the answer or creative solution arises. The more you try to force the answer, the less creative and rigid your mind will become.

The best creative ideas will come to you indirectly. The answer to your question will arise spontaneously such as seeing a billboard, talking to a person unrelated to your field, when your mind is wandering or daydreaming or even in the form of strange dreams. The bottom line is that the creative answer will find you, you don't need to grasp so hard for it. Apple's founder Steve Jobs created the typeface that all computers use today from taking a calligraphy class in college at a time when he was lost and searching for his purpose in life. This is the most difficult step because it is hard to be patient when you are attached to finding the answer.


Eureka! Eureka! – remember the Archimedes story? Let's refresh it. The story behind that event was that Archimedes was charged with proving that a new crown made for Hieron, the king of Syracuse, was not pure gold as the goldsmith had claimed. Archimedes thought long and hard but could not find a method for proving that the crown was not solid gold. He decided to relax a bit by taking a bath in his bath tub. He filled a bathtub and noticed that water spilled over the edge as he got in and he realized that the water displaced by his body was equal to the weight of his body. Archimedes was able to determine that the crown was not pure gold due to the volume of the displaced water, because even though the weight of the crown was identical to the weight of the gold that the king gave the crown maker, the volume was different due the various densities of the metals. This led to what we now know as Archimedes Principle.

Relaxation is known to enhance creativity. For example, progressive muscle relaxation has been associated with reductions in heart rate, anxiety, and perceived stress. Relaxed states have been shown to foster thought processes important for creativity.

Further, stress – the opposite of relaxation – is known to kill nerve cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain where new memories are formed. These new memories help us make connections with other things known, fueling the creative process.

So, take a break. Create a relaxed state for yourself, by deep breathing, stretching, going for a walk, whatever works for you. Once relaxed, you might find a creative answer to a problem that eluded you!

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By: Vaani Gandha


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