On Creativity

These are the world’s “most creative” countries

Quartz reports on data compiled by the Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI) at the University of Toronto into the Global Creativity Index (GCI):

To create their ranking, researchers defined creativity as the product of three measurable variables, “the Three Ts”: technology, talent and tolerance.

“Technology” rankings were determined by looking at investment levels in research and development, plus patents per capita. National “talent” was evaluated as a composite of the percentage of adults with higher-education degrees and the percentage of workforce involved in creative industries. Interestingly, the third factor in MPI’s creativity index was “tolerance”: a ranking based on how each country treats its immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, and LGBT residents.

When looking at the results, it’s important to keep this in mind:

Based on MPI’s definition of creativity, it comes as no surprise that there’s a strong link between each nation’s creativity ranking and its overall economic development.

It’s also important to note that the terms this report evaluates comprise a concept of creativity different from our usual notion.

Head to head: Does every creative genius need a bitter rival?

Jacob Burak examines well known rivalries between creative geniuses:

  • painters John Constable and J.M.W. Turner
  • mathematicians Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz
  • researchers into electricity Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla
  • computer pioneers Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

Burak references psychological research that found:

rivals tend to be the same age, gender and social status. True rivals know each other and, indeed, often have long, enmeshed histories. Rivals are, by definition, evenly matched – but the higher the level of their attainment, the more they propel each other on.

And rivalry can exist between entire societies and social groups, not just between individuals.

Here’s how two of the world’s most famous psychologists described rivalries:

An especially profound exploration of rivalry comes from the psychologist Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, who said that we have more in common with our rivals than we would like to admit. The qualities in our rival that arouse our hostility are exactly the ones we prefer to repress in ourselves: weakness, anxiety, greed, aggression, lust and rudeness are a few common examples. Jung called this panoply of traits ‘the shadow’.

In Freudian theory, we defend ourselves from urges we don’t want to acknowledge by denying their existence and ‘projecting’ them onto others. This makes us attribute qualities, intentions and desires to others that are actually our own. According to Jung, such urges are buried deep within the ‘shadow’ part of our mind. The less cognisant we are of the shadow inside us, the darker and denser it becomes.

Say no more often. You’ll be happier and healthier.

A long time ago I knew a woman who was moderately successful at writing books for middle-grade readers. She wasn’t a household name by any means. She once told me that she had been asked to speak at her nephew’s school, not too far from her house.

“I can’t spend my time giving talks at schools,” she told me. I thought that giving that talk would probably increase her exposure among children and their parents, who buy the books, after all. “I need to spend my time writing my next book.”

This is one of the burning questions for aspiring writers: when to talk for free and sometimes even write for free to increase their name recognition and connect with a wider audience.

In this short article author Cory Doctorow explains that creative people need to say “no” more often, for exactly the reason that my writer acquaintance gave. The best part of the article is the sample letters, reproduced from Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an Artist, used by writers such as E.B. White, Robert A. Heinlein, and Carl Sandburg to say “no” as gently and unobnoxiously as possible.

9 Tricks Brilliant Innovators Use To Come Up With Big Ideas

When I think about creativity, I think foremost of artists such as painters, writers, and musicians. But creativity plays a large part in innovation in many life areas, including business (see the article above on the world’s most creative countries).

This article from Inc., aimed at business people, catalogs the best practices for finding ideas from the book The Idea Hunter: How To Find The Best Ideas And Make Them Happen by Andy Boynton and Bill Fischer.

Read the full explanations of why these suggestions work:

  • Get to know your competition.
  • Listen to your customers.
  • Take long walks.
  • Invite in diverse opinions.
  • Keep careful track of your ideas, and refer back to them when you’re stuck.
  • Set aside time to pursue big ideas.
  • Pay attention to news and culture.
  • Schedule downtime.
  • Turn your attention elsewhere.

With just a small change of emphasis, most of these suggestions can be adapted by people in fields other than business.

Why Creative Play Matters

Katie Simpson doesn’t break any new ground here, but it’s good to be reminded occasionally about why it’s good to take time to look up at the clouds, to color a picture with crayons, to mold a figure out of kids’ clay, or just make up stories about people who walk past you.