Why do humans innovate? More importantly, what makes a person creative enough to innovate? For generations, humans have never been able to leave well enough alone. We are always looking towards the stars and trying to reinvent the wheel in a constant pursuit of perfection.
Innovators shun the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” They believe there is always a better way. But innovation is just as much about creativity as it is about a person’s knowledge of a particular field (some might argue creativity is more important). But where does creativity come from? Is it something we are born with, or is a skill that can be taught?
Nature vs. Nurture
Is it genetics or practice that makes a person more creative?
Science says YES. There is research to back up both the “born with it” and “you can learn it” claims.
Studies show that some people are more genetically predisposed to being creative. One such study noted that heightened creativity was the result of a person having an increased presence of a particular cluster of genes that are associated with the gene family that dictate plasticity of the brain. This particular cluster was involved in the brain’s ability to break and form new connections between cells. In other words, people who have these clusters of genes have a brain with a greater ability to change over time. They can learn more quickly and adapt to new ideas at a greater rate.
Other researchers have tied creativity to DNA strands that produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is tied to many bodily functions and behaviors. In their study, they found that more creative people had duplicate DNA strands containing a gene specifically tied to the productions of serotonin. Higher levels of serotonin increase connectivity in the area of the brain that controls awareness and internally directed thought. More specifically, these individuals are more prone to perceptivity and creativity.
But Nurture Can Be Just as Powerful as Nature
Despite these findings, researchers cannot say with certainty that genetics are the best way to determine the level of creativity a person will have. Perhaps some people are more prone to being creative, but as with many things, practice makes perfect.
A study in the Creativity Research Journal (Vol. 20, No. 1) found that people can enhance their creativity by working four main areas:
- Capturing new ideas (i.e. writing down or recording ideas as they come to you)
- Seeking out challenging tasks, even those that do not have a solution (e.g. making your dog fly)
- Broadening their knowledge (reading and taking classes on topics that are completely outside their field of expertise)
- Keeping interesting company (surrounding yourself with intelligent and creative thinking people)
Other research, according to the American Psychological Association, has revealed that people can increase their creativity and chances of coming up with new ideas by:
- Taking care of their health, specifically by getting enough sleep (as shown in a 2004 study in Nature (Vol. 427, No. 6,972)
- Collaborating ideas with others (as shown in a 2000 study in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (Vol. 82, No. 1)
- Letting more sunshine into their place of work or getting outside (as shown in a 2002 Creativity Research Journal (Vol. 14, No. 3.4) study
- Maintaining a happy mood and lifestyle (as shown in a 2004 Creativity Research Journal (Vol. 16, No. 2.3) study
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Some people were born to be creative. Others have honed their minds and skills to become creative. There are many people in this world, and the best way to innovate is to expose an organization's innovation challenges/problems to as many different creative and critical thinking minds as possible. This is the power of crowdsourced innovation. It brings different minds, those that are built different, have experienced different things, look at things from a different perspective and just think differently, to the table. It allows new ideas and solutions to be combined with what your organization already knows to create a solution that really works. Get in touch with InnoCentive today to learn more about open innovation and crowdsource solutions.