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Why Geniuses Aren't Always Creative

How Genius and Creativity Are Actually Opposte States

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Why Aren't Geniuses Necessarily Creative?

A few years back, I read a really good chapter in what I consider to be one of the best text books on personality. In it, Dean Keith Simonton, a professor of psychology at University of California, discussed how difficult it is to empirically define both genius and creativity. What has stayed with me since then were two things. One, I was surprised by the fact that research shows I.Q. is not a good predictor for creativity past I.Q.'s of 120. Two, I felt personally challenged to find empirical fractals with which to define these two parts of personality; genius, and creativity.

With regard to the first point, my surprise comes from the fact that while a person with an I.Q. of 120 can be expected to be a bit more creative than a person with a more normal I.Q., say 107, that after that people can have an I.Q. of 200 and still be no more creative than people with 120 I.Q.'s. (Normal I.Q.'s are considered to be between about 100 and 110)

How can this be? For years now, I've wondered. Wouldn't it make more sense that higher intellect would allow for, and even correlate to, higher creativity? It doesn't though. Moreover, this points to a prejudice present in almost all of us; that being word smart is better than being street smart; in essence, that "factual knowledge" is intelligence.

Yesterday I found myself, in one of my sessions, offering answers to these two questions, first, as to why genius does not correlate to creativity, and second, the fractals within personality which would explain and support this seemingly counterintuitive conclusion. First the fractals.

Know I define "fractals" as "recognizable patterns which always repeat differently." Thus I see them as being the polar opposite to the more common statistically based kinds of definitions wherein repeating identically is the holy grail. My fractal for "genius" then is, "the ability to use pattern recognition to solve problems," and my fractal for creativity is "the ability to find problems that lead to recognizing new patterns."

This makes genius and creativity polar opposites as well and to see this, consider this. As I've just defined these terms, a genius is a specialist who uses reductionism to find better solutions. He or she says "why reinvent the wheel? Let's get things done." Conversely, a creative person is a generalist who uses expansionism to find previously unnoticed problems. She or he answers the specialist's question, "why reinvent the wheel," with a rarely thought of answer; "Why reinvent the wheel? Why, to become a wheel maker, of course."

From this it may sound like I favor creativity and to be honest, I actually do. Perhaps this is because I've met so many very intelligent people who cannot notice the beauty in a baby's eyes let alone think outside of the box. I've also seen too many teachers say that creativity is important while at the same time relegating it's development in students to an after thought looked at only after the practical learning is done.

Like all things, of course, there is also a down side to being creative and a reason why we, in general, pay people in creatively focused professions like music and art much less than we pay those in reductionist problem solving professions like the sciences and law. This downside is simply that people who are, by nature, expansionists; artists and musicians and such, often digress so far, wide, and badly, they fail to come up with anything useful let alone with enough practical skills to live a normal life.

About this, one of my heroes, the American theorist and professor William James might say that to be considered valid, an idea or endeavor must have a "cash value." And I agree with him. Thus while the creative person's question; "I wonder what hasn't been thought of yet," can indeed be quite inspiring, it can just as easily lead young people to pooh pooh and or disregard the good practical work of previous generations.

So now, the question. Which do you consider more important, genius or creativity? Moreover, is there a way schools can actually awaken these two skills in people, a pragmatic method with which schools might actually make this happen more? What do you think? Write and let me know



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