Madness and Creativity

“Madness and creativity are often linked, perhaps more in the minds of those who would oppose new ideas than in the minds of creative people. Useful madness is the craziness of being different, of doing things and thinking up ideas that more traditional folks would abhor.”

The-Rickety-Old-House-of-Creativity-Mind-MapFrom Mind Map Inspiration

Fred Southwick, a Professor of Medicine at the University of Florida, poiunts out, that “creativity enhances life. It enables the great thinkers, artists, and leaders of our world to continually push forward new concepts, new forms of expression and new ways to improve every facet of our existence.”

Jeffrey Paul Baumgartner identifies a few characteristics of highly creative people, including:

  1. Making more use of their mental raw material:It seems that when highly creative people try to solve a problem or achieve a goal, particularly when the goal is related to their area of creative strength, they use much more of their brains than do ordinary people or, indeed, than even themselves when they are not focused on a creative task. If the average person is asked to draw a picture of a cat, she will most likely think about the physical appearance of a cat and replicate it as best she can with pen and paper. The creative artist, on the other hand, will think in much more depth. She’ll think not only about the cat, but the placement of the cat; what the cat is doing; the lighting; the kind of lines to use and much more. She may decide to humanize the cat and give it emotions. Perhaps she’ll decide to draw a sexy cat with a human body wearing an evening gown. Maybe she’ll simply draw a blur representing a cat in motion.
  2. Less Intellectual RegulationThe dorsolateral prefrontal region of the brain is responsible for, among other things, intellectual regulation. It includes the brain’s censorship bureau: the bit of the brain that prevents us from saying or doing inappropriate things. It allows us to control impulses and to choose appropriate courses of behavior according to our circumstances. It seems that in highly creative people, this part of the brain becomes much less active during times of creation.

    This makes sense. If you can reduce the level of thought regulation when generating creative work (whether ideas, music, or artwork), then fewer ideas will be filtered out as inappropriate and more will be developed and shared.In averagely creative people, on the other hand, the dorsolateral prefrontal region remains more active all the time. It filters out crazy thoughts; it prevents the person from saying, doing or even thinking too much about outrageous ideas. It ensures that averagely creative people think and behave conventionally. And for many people, this is preferred. Most people desire to fit into society and succeed according to existing rules. It is only creative misfits who want to succeed by doing things their own way—by ignoring convention, by having the audacity to believe they know better than convention.For many people, this is a good thing. Sharing stupid ideas is embarrassing. People might laugh at the individual who shares seemingly stupid ideas. People might question her competence. Moreover, the averagely creative individual may wonder why she should bother with creative ideas when more conventional solutions work well enough. No one is going to be laughed at or reprimanded for coming up with a conventional idea that is in keeping with the norms of the local culture (whether it is society, a school or a workplace).

    On the other hand, sharing a radical idea that might be stupid could well result in ridicule. Acting on an idea that could fail miserably could get you in trouble.In short, it is safer to be conventional and incremental in your creativity than it is to be unconventional and radical in your creativity –for most people. Highly creative people are different. Their brains are programmed to worry less about fitting in with conventions and staying within norms. It is not that highly creative people are not afraid of ridicule or criticism (indeed, many artists are highly sensitive). Rather, it never occurs to them that others might ridicule their ideas.

  3. Creative People Are LogicalAnother common fallacy about creative people is that they are not logical, that they are driven purely by feeling and emotion. Rather, as noted, creative people are not handicapped by a need to conform to social norms. They are not compelled to be a part of popular culture. Rather, they are driven by a logic that suits their needs and is logical to them. That logic may be based in part on emotions and feelings – especially in some artists. But it is a form of logic nevertheless. All people need to make decisions and decisions are based on some kind of logic. The creative artist is no exception. If anything, by not feeling compelled to fit the demands of popular culture, the creative artist needs to be even more logical than the average person who assumes that if everyone wears and buys a particular style jacket, then it is safe to buy and wear such a jacket.

Are you looking to hire creative employees at your company? As Jeffrey Paul Baumgartner points out, “if you want to find and hire exceptionally creative people, you need to find people with diversity in their backgrounds. This is not only a sign of creativity, but it also indicates a potential employee with more diversity of experience, knowledge and thought than a person who has followed a clearly defined career path.” He suggests to look for the following:

  1. Diversity and International Experience
    “The most important thing you should look for is international living experience. Not international travel, but living and working (or studying) experience. Research has demonstrated that living overseas permanently boosts an individual’s creativity. Indeed, to the best of my knowledge, it is the only proven way to boost permanently creativity. So, look for foreigners living in your country as well as nationals who have lived and worked overseas. Presumably, though it has not been tested, doing multiple international stints and living in very different cultures further enhance creativity.The second best characteristic to international experience is diversity of experience. Rather than look for people who have followed a very narrow career path, look for people who have had more varied experience. Look for people who have done work significantly different from that of the position you are seeking to fulfill. If you want an IT manager, someone who has spent two years selling furniture or a year teaching skiing and has additional IT experience is likely to be more creative than someone who has only had IT experience. Moreover, she will bring diversity of thought to the IT department — and that boosts collaborative creativity.

    Aside from work experience, look for evidence of diversity and unusual points in education, hobbies and elsewhere. A marketing manager who has a degree in philosophy followed up by an MBA will probably be more creative than the marketing manager who has a business administration degree and an MBA. She will certainly bring new perspectives to the marketing department.”

  2. Humour
    “Having an original sense of humour — that is, being able to make jokes or be funny on your own, rather than repeating well known jokes — is an indicator of creativity. Humour is about seeing things in unusual ways that are unexpected. To be able to do that requires creativity. This does not mean that every creative person has a sense of humour. Many do not. But anyone with an original sense of humour is almost certainly very creative.Having a sense of humour will probably not be apparent in an applicant’s CV and most people believe they have a sense of humour. But if the applicant keeps a blog, is active on Twitter or participates publicly in other social media where she demonstrates an original sense of humour, she is probably more creative than most.”
  3. Rebelliousness
    “Highly creative people tend to be rebellious. They think differently from averagely creative people, they tend to do things in unconventional ways and they are not afraid to provoke others, including senior management. This is not usually because they choose to be rebellious. Rather, highly creative people think differently and make decisions differently than do averagely creative people. Often, highly creative people are blind to the relevant conventions. They are likely to believe their ideas are better than more conventional ideas.”

“That pretty much sums up highly creative people: they are different. They will have different backgrounds from averagely creative people — and that background may very well include international living and working experience. They will behave differently from averagely creative people and they will offer different results: creative results. If you keep this in mind, it will not be hard to find and hire creative people. The challenge will be challenging them sufficiently to keep them!”

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