Creativity is a fascinating and important subject for anyone to study. Understanding how people tap into their creative powers and why some are better than others is quite interesting. Nancy C. Andreasen is a very qualified person to address this topic. In addition to a PhD in English literature, she later switched careers and earned an MD with a residency in psychiatry. In the current edition of The Atlantic, Andreasen writes on “Secrets of the Creative Brain” (July/August 2014, pp. 62–75). Not only do I highly recommend the article to you, but also I will devote several of my blog posts to various aspects of it beginning today.
A common misconception that Andreasen addresses is the connection between IQ and creativity. Many people assume that the more intelligent you are, the more creative you are. Citing the classic research of Lewis M. Terman (a Stanford psychologist who wrote the multivolume work, Genetic Studies of Genius), Andreasen emphasizes that the supposed linkage between IQ and creativity is a bit of a misnomer:
“[Terman’s studies] debunked some stereotypes and introduced new paradoxes. . . . High IQs did not predict high levels of creative achievement later in life. Only a few [of the study individuals] made significant creative contributions to society; none appear to have demonstrated extremely high creativity levels of the sort recognized by major awards, such as the Nobel Prize. . . . Thirty percent of the men and 33 percent of the women did not even graduate from college. . . . A crucial conclusion from Terman’s study is that having a high IQ is not equivalent to being highly creative.” (p. 65)
Therefore, the first challenge we must conquer is assuming that because someone is extremely smart he or she must therefore be highly creative and vice versa. I have met extremely intelligent people at both ends of the creativity spectrum. Intelligence alone is not an automatic driver of creativity.
This insight has important implications for how we make business decisions, work in teams, delegate projects, and relate to colleagues. The dimensions of our diverse identities indeed run a wide and deep gamut. Perhaps we need to check ourselves in how we are assessing our own and our colleague’s intelligence and creativity. Assumptions can do a disservice to everyone.