Creativity

Thinking of novel solutions

Strength of mind

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

—Maya Angelou

Why does creativity matter?

When you approach life with a creative attitude, you are more open to new ideas and possibilities, better able to understand others’ perspectives, and more likely to seek out multiple solutions to problems. Despite the stereotype of the mad genius, everyday creativity is just as important. You can use it to help you improve your mood and cope with stress, feel more connected with other people and the world—and even help you find meaning and purpose in life.

Pulse Check

Think about yourself. How many of these things are true?

  • I often seek out novel experiences and ways of doing things.
  • I like to think of different ways to reach my goals.
  • I often make decisions that take me outside my comfort zone.
  • I have a playful attitude toward learning something new.
  • I enjoy connecting the dots between seemingly different perspectives and thoughts.

How do I encourage creativity in others?

Model it. Try new experiences and look for new ways of seeing things. Be flexible in your path to reaching a goal: “I thought I knew how to perform this cello concerto, but in hearing how it sounds, I realize I need to try a different approach.” Rather than focus on completing a task, think of all the different ways you might accomplish the same goal—or even question why you are doing it.

Celebrate it. Appreciate creative thinking in others: “I didn’t think of that idea, but it really works.” Look for examples of creativity among exemplary artists, scientists, and leaders throughout history or in your local community, and talk about them to your family, friends, and students.

Enable it. Ask open-ended questions. Point out that there usually isn’t a single straightforward answer to any complex problem: “Let’s come up with as many different possible solutions as we can.” Allow time for mind-wandering, play, and daydreaming. It is easy to get stuck in the same routine every day, so help the young people in your life find even small ways to shake things up.

About the Authors

Scott Barry Kaufman is a psychologist at Columbia University. He is the author or editor of eight books, including Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined and Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind (with Carolyn Gregoire). In addition to writing the column Beautiful Minds for Scientific American, he also hosts The Psychology Podcast, which was named by Business Insider as a podcast that “will change how you think about human behavior.” You can find more out more at scottbarrykaufman.com.

James C. Kaufman is a professor of educational psychology at Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. He is the author or editor of more than 45 books, including Creativity 101 and the Cambridge Handbook of Creativity (with Robert Sternberg). He can be reached at jamesckaufman.com.


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