SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Creativity. It’s not the purview of only those icons such as Van Gogh, Hemingway or Yo-Yo Ma. In fact, a Mayo Clinic study finds that despite great qualitative and quantitative differences among people, the human brain functions pretty much the same when it comes to creativity — from the least to the most creative among us.
“The good news is that you don’t have to be a genius to be creative,” is a welcome finding by the head of Neurology at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Richard Caselli.
Dr. Caselli, in a study published in Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, looked at examples of creativity — from the Stone Age more than two million years ago when people creatively developed sharp-edged tools to allow them to dig and build — to the life-changing invention of the wheel — to the final evolutionary steps of modern man who takes creativity to unprecedented levels.
Dr. Caselli concludes that creativity emerges from the interplay of five commonly shared factors among us all: motivation, perception, action, temperament and social context. Importantly, he finds, creativity doesn’t just apply to art and performance, but to how we approach every day problems.
Of course creativity is most obvious in the virtuoso who makes music, for example. But creativity is also employed by us all in unexpected places, “such as when we wind our way through traffic on our way to work,” notes Dr. Caselli. “You perceive the traffic challenge. You envision that you don’t want to be in that traffic jam. Now you form a plan and you take action. You take a detour, avoid gridlock and you make it to work on time. You please the boss because you aren’t missing a meeting — you are thus satisfying the social context part.”
Dr. Caselli’s study, Creativity: An Organizational Schema, acknowledges that even if we all share creative capability and behavior, those who rise to levels of extraordinary creative capabilities are the product of a “creativity formula” based on their experiences. Such experiences can include intellectual precocity, childhood trauma, a marginalized family background, unique educational experiences, role models and a period of time in which they were immersed in a creative experience.
Accomplished artists, scientists and politicians also share certain personality characteristics leading to creativity — curiosity, open-mindedness, risk-taking, tolerance for ambiguity and attraction to that which is novel or complex.
Our motivation for change, according to Dr. Caselli’s exploration of creativity, begins with a desire to reach a more preferred alternative. Dr. Caselli explains this as “the attempt to bridge the gap between what is and what should be.”
Our creativity is an emergent factor that is the result of many factors, determined by both nature and nurture, he says. Why some people evolve to be highly creative, even though the basic neurobiologic principles of creative behavior are the same among all of us, is because diverse skill sets contribute to the differences among individuals.
“But by looking at the steps to creativity, we can possibly improve the process and enjoy a more creative life,” Dr. Caselli says.
So how can we put this information into action steps we can employ every day to use creativity to reach our goals — and, importantly — end up achieving that positive social context?
“Look at the five steps to creativity and determine where you need to spend some energy,” recommends Dr. Caselli. “If you need help executing an idea, put together a plan. Assess your temperament in terms of follow-through. Envision your desired goal and keep at your effort until that goal is achieved.”
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Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world. As a leading academic medical center in the Southwest, Mayo Clinic focuses on providing specialty and surgical care in more than 65 disciplines at its outpatient facility in north Scottsdale and at Mayo Clinic Hospital. The 244-licensed bed hospital is located at 56th Street and Mayo Boulevard (north of Bell Road) in northeast Phoenix, and provides inpatient care to support the medical and surgical specialties of the clinic, which is located at 134th Street and Shea Boulevard in Scottsdale. To obtain the latest news releases from Mayo Clinic, go to www.mayoclinic.org/news. For information about research and education visit www.mayo.edu. MayoClinic.com (www.mayoclinic.com) is available as a resource for your health stories.
About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world. Doctors from every medical specialty work together to care for patients, joined by common systems and a philosophy of “the needs of the patient come first.” More than 3,300 physicians, scientists and researchers and 46,000 allied health staff work at Mayo Clinic, which has sites in Rochester, Minn., Jacksonville, Fla., and Scottsdale/Phoenix, Ariz. Collectively, the three locations treat more than half a million people each year. To obtain the latest news releases from Mayo Clinic, go to www.mayoclinic.org/news. For information about research and education visit www.mayo.edu. MayoClinic.com is available as a resource for your health stories.