Innovation, Creativity and Intelligence

Innovation, Creativity and Intelligence

In 1957 the space race was blown completely out of the water, the launch of a Soviet satellite shocked America out of complacency. It was no longer a given that American enterprise led the world. University's changed their curriculum to emphasise sciences and creative thinking, employers followed suit and decided to jump on the creative bandwagon too. The space race accelerated a trend that had already begun in psychology: the shattering of the concept of intelligence.

For half a century the world leaders placed great faith in the notion of IQ. Intelligence was imagined to be a single quantity, responsible for all intellectual accomplishment and as easy to measure as blood pressure. If you look at the way Google, Amazon and Apple today hire its employees, the questions/tasks of their interviews, it's clear to see where these companies although believed to have the most intelligent force, in fact search not just for intelligence alone, but creativity as well.

See intelligence alone does not promise success. The disconnect between intelligence and success began as an embarrassment to IQ psychologists. One of Thomas Edison's assistants was so intrigued by the mysteries of intellect and success that he became a psychologist.

Unlike others, Louise Thurstone held that intelligence is not one thing but many distinct skills such as word fluency, spatial visualisation, and reasoning. There wasn't much correlation between them, he argued. You can be brilliant at one thing, terrible at everything else. So intelligence is the ability to reason well and grasp the subtleties of the word around us. Intelligent people are quick thinkers who do well at university or business (provided they are motivated).

Creativity is a more fluid term. You will hear speakers name drop Da Vinci, Steve Jobs, Picasso or Oprah Winfrey to reference success or creativity or both, but the story of many great successes challenge any simple identification. There are two key hypotheses for this; one is 'disjoint' and the other 'nothing special'. The disjoint hypothesis says that creativity and intelligence are completely different. You can have one, the other, both, or neither :-s The nothing special hypothesis says that creativity is nothing special. Inside our heads, there is no deep distinction between creativity and intelligence. The distinction is strictly outside our heads.

We look at certain consequences of thinking and ambition.... Google was founded on a dream, the light bulb created after "10,000 ways that don't work" or even cubism.... From this we can decide that there must be a special mental attribute that created them. We can alternatively look at this and say, it's plain old intelligence, motivation, hard work, and being in the right place at the right time. We can look then at the Innovators of this generation, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg, Larry page, Richard Branson (and so on). There is however a threshold hypnosis which takes the middle position, sitting on the fence between the two. This says that you have to be intelligent to be creative... But the opposite isn't the case.

If you look at a random sample of creative, successful people, you will find that virtually all are highly intelligent. But if you look at a random sample of intelligent people, you will find that very few of them are creative or conspicuously successful in business or life.

To be an innovator you need both divergent thinking and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking put simply is Brainstorming. Being able to come up with many ideas/solutions, and also edit and refine them. Convergent thinking is the ability of using logic or instinct to narrow down the range of possibilities... To decide which possible solutions best solve the problem. These two are a yin-yang duality. Those who excel only at divergent thinking may be flakes; those gifted with convergent thinking alone are intelligent but not creative.

A modern definition if creativity is the ability to combine novelty and usefulness in a particular social context. This is a very American way to look at this, the American dream or loan cowboy from a garage or bedroom, creating a billion dollar idea and captivating the world.

Success is difficult to explain, as is failure. We apply to word creative to movements such as Mashable or Twitter.... yet micro blogging, social media, emails, text messages, blogs, podcasts, YouTube etc already existed. They are a niche within an ever shifting ecosystem of communication modalities. Modern innovators try interesting things and hope to catch a cresting wave.