There are many long-held beliefs about what creativity looks like and who’s actually creative. The sad part about these myths is that they have the power to pilfer a person’s creativity.
For instance, if you think creativity is a gift granted to a lucky few, the last thing you’ll probably want to do is bolster your creativity biceps.
Below, experts dispel three very common myths about creativity.
1. Myth: Only artists, writers and musicians are creative.
Facts: Artists tend to identify as creative more than other people, said Laura Simms, a career coach for creatives. The same is true for writers and musicians. But that doesn’t mean that creativity is only born out of these trades.
“Creativity is vital in virtually all aspects of human enterprise, from business — many corporations now have a Chief Innovation Officer and most of the elite business schools around the world have courses on creativity — to sports, to how you raise a family, to how you find a life mate,” said Shelley Carson, Ph.D, Harvard researcher and author of Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life.
“[Creativity is] about solutions and connections and seeing the edge of things. It’s about making things better, smarter, easier,” Simms said. She cited all kinds of creative acts with everything from the Theory of Relativity to reducing the deficit to putting a rover on Mars.
2. Myth: There are two kinds of people: those who are creative and those who are not.
Facts: Everyone is creative. “We are all in possession of a fantastic creativity machine – our human brain,” Carson said. In fact, she said, creativity is our survival tool. If it wasn’t for creativity, we wouldn’t be here, she said. Think of all the different ways our ingenuity has extended and enriched our lives on this planet.
Plus, we perform creative acts all the time – hundreds a day, she said. For instance, “Every time you utter a sentence or use a common item for something other than its original purpose, you are performing a creative act,” she said.
3. Myth: Creativity only depends on the person.
Facts: “Of course, it’s partly about the person – inborn talents, skills and expertise developed through experience, a flexible cognitive style, a willingness to persevere, a tolerance for ambiguity,” according to Teresa M. Amabile, Ph.D, a professor at Harvard Business School and co-author of The Progress Principle.
But the social environment, including school, home and work, also plays a big role in creativity, she said. It mainly has to do with motivation, she said. “Across all talent levels, people have peaks and valleys in their creative productivity – due, in part, to the supports and constraints operating on them at the time.”
For instance, after analyzing almost 12,000 daily journal entries from 238 people from 7 different companies, Amabile and her research team found that people were more creative when: they viewed their work environment in a positive light; they felt they had their boss’s and co-workers’ support; they perceived their projects as challenging; and they had autonomy to complete these projects.1