What is creativity? Can we develop it, or is it innate? Watch the conversation between Marc Mayer, Director and CEO of the National Gallery of Canada, and Dr. Jordan Peterson, Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, which took place March 9, 2017 at the National Gallery of Canada.
creativity seems related to IQ in that more people with higher IQs are likely to be creative or if you take people who are noted for their creativity there’s a high probability that they’ll have a higher IQ but there’s more to it than IQ and and what what creativity seems to be associated with then again depends on whether or not on how you define creativity because you could define it as the sum total of creative achievements that you’ve made in your life which would be the actual production of say artifacts of one form or another performances or inventions or artworks or or what-have-you we’ll go over the dimensions in the middle in a minute or you could also define it as the proclivity to engage in creative thought and I think we’ll start with that first so what does it mean to think creatively it’s it’s sort of like it’s something like this you imagine that I toss you out an idea and there’s some probability that when I toss you that idea that that will trigger off other ideas in your imagination so you can think about it as a threshold issue if you’re not very creative I’ll throw you an idea and hardly any other ideals will be triggered and the ones that will be triggered are going to be very closely associated with that initial idea so let’s say I toss each of you an idea and I asked you to think tell me the first thing that comes to mind okay so what we would see first is that the first thing that comes to mind for you the first thing that comes to mind in life in all likelihood we’d be shared by many of you okay so then you can think about that as a common response right and so that’s a less creative response and then there’ll be some things that come to mind for you that are that they’re so idiosyncratic that you’re the only person that thinks that and no one can understand it well that’s also not exactly creative because the thing that you for something to be creative it has to be novel and useful at the same time that’s sort of a rough definition creative something creative is novel and useful and obviously you know there’s a there’s a certain amount of judgment that goes along with that clearly but if it’s too novel then no one else can understand it and it’s unlikely to be useful so there’s there’s a there’s a range of convenience so anyways if you want to decide if something’s creative like what we would do for I could say to you okay in the next three minutes I want you to write down all the uses you can think of for a brick so okay so someone tell me a use for a brick breaking windows yes okay what else can use a brick for build a wall it’s very small wall haha a wall for ant and what else paperweight okay okay well so you get the idea you’re not feeling very wealthy today obviously but so so you see that so if we gathered your responses say I said you have to think of 20 items that 20 things that that you could do with a brick then a bunch of the things that you thought would be the same and some people would come up with something different like yours was reasonably different than what about using it as a pumice stone for your feet but someone else might have come up with that but it’s it’s a good creative response because it’s unexpected and it you could actually do it you know so anyway so you’ll get a graph of probability of response right and the more probable the less creative roughly speaking it’s not the only criteria though because you also have to look at utility so if I said okay you’ve got three minutes to write down as many uses as you can think of for a brick I would score that in a variety of ways the first thing I would do is just figure out how many uses you generated that’s called fluency and we could also do that I could just say write down as many words as you can begin with the letter S in three minutes or that begin with the letter C or four-letter words that begin with the letter D no I can I can constrain it and if I counted how many words you generated if I had an IQ measure and I had a measure of how many words you generated IQ plus the number of words that you generated would be a better predictor of your creativity than just IQ so there’s a fluency element that’s in and so that’s something like the rate at which you can produce say verbal ideas and one of the things we do know about about the creativity dimension of openness is that it is associated with fluency and it’s also associated with originality and originality would be how improbable your use was compared to the uses generated by other people so so anyway so you can think of you get thrown an idea and there’s some probability that that will Co activate other ideas and if it co activates many other ideas that’s like fluency and if it co activates ideas that are quite distant from the original idea something like that and you could you could track distance by comparing it to to probability that other people have generated it then that’s also another indication of creativity so they have to be unlikely many unlikely responses that are useful that’s what creativity is roughly speaking and then you can fractionated into different dimensions so that’s creative thinking but then creative achievement would be the ability to take those original ideas and then actually to implement them in the world and that’s obviously much more different than merely being creative and so and then what creativity is depends on which of those measurement routes that you take now I develop the questionnaire it’s one of my students Shelley Carson about Jesus just about 30 years ago now 20 years ago I guess called the creative achievement questionnaire and I’ll show you that here and I’ll show you some of the things that are interesting about it you know you hear very frequently people say things like everyone’s creative it’s like that’s wrong okay it’s wrong it’s just as wrong as saying that everyone’s extroverted first of all you have to be pretty damn smart to be creative because otherwise you’re just going to get to where other people have already got and that’s not creative by definition so so being fast and being out there at the front of things really makes a difference and then you also have to have these divergent thinking capabilities and that’s part of your trait structure and creative people are really different than non creative people you know partly because for example they’re highly motivated to do creative things and to experience novelty in – and – and to chase down aesthetic experiences in to attend movies and to read fiction and to go to museums and to enjoy poetry and and and to enjoy music that’s not conventional music for example these aren’t trivial differences and so and so it’s a real it’s a real missed statement to make the proposition that everyone’s creative it’s just simply not the case it’s a matter of wishful thinking it’s like saying that everyone is intelligent it’s like well if everyone is intelligent then then the term loses all of its meaning because any term that you can apply to every member of a category has absolutely no meaning now that doesn’t and you know the other thing you want to be thinking about here is that
don’t be thinking that creativity is such a good thing
it’s a high-risk high-return strategy
so if you’re creative you just try this there’s creative people in this room man
you guys are going to have a hell of a time monetizing your creativity
it’s virtually impossible it’s really really difficult because first of all
let’s say you make an original product you think the world will beat a pathway to your door if you build a better mousetrap it’s like that’s complete rubbish it isn’t it isn’t true in the least
if you make a good creative product you’ve probably solved about 5% of your problem because then you have marketing which is insanely difficult and then you have sales and then you have customer support and then you have to build an organization
and you have to if it’s really novel you have to tell people what the hell the thing is
you know we built this future authoring program or anything with it so it’s available for people online how do you market that no one knows what that is and that’s a real problem if you wrote a book well then you have the problem that another million people have also written a book but if you produce something that’s completely new and doesn’t have a category people can’t search for it online how are they going to find it so you just have and then you have pricing problems and it’s really unbelievably difficult to produce something creative and then monetize it and even worse if you’re the creative person let’s say you have a spectacular invention you’ve got no money right you’ve got no customers those are big problems and so maybe you go and you find a venture capitalist we start with family and friends because that’s how it works you raise money for your product you raise money from your family and friends that’s assuming you have family and friends that have some money and that they’re going to give it to you and most people aren’t in that situation so it’s a terrible barrier right off the bat
and then of course you’re putting your family and friends at substantial financial risk because the probability that your stupid idea is going to make money is a virtually zero even if it’s a really brilliant idea and so then let’s say well you get past family and friends and you get venture capitalist capitalists involved because that’s often the next step or an angel investor that’s there’s their steps in building a business family and friends angel investor that’s some rich guy that you happen to meet some manner in some way who’s who’s into this sort of thing and is willing to provide you with some money to get your checked off the ground well how much of your product is that person going to take well most of it most of it and then if you get a venture and no wonder because you know you don’t have any money how are you going to bargain for control over your product he’ll just say well do you want the money or not and if your answer is no then he’ll go and do something else with his money it’s not like there’s no shortage of things that you can do with your money there’s a million things you can do with it so you’re not in a great bargaining position and then if you get venture capitalists involved they’ll take another big chunk and maybe if they’re not very straight with you they’ll just throw you out because maybe by that point in the company’s development you’re nothing but a pain in the neck because what do you know about marketing and sales and customer service and building an organization and running a business like you don’t have a clue so why do they need you so even if you’re successful at generating a new idea and you put it into a business the probability that you as the originator of the of the idea are going to make some money from it is very very low so don’t be thinking that creativity is such a is such a something you would want to curse yourself with now you know it’s not all bad because it opens up avenues of experience for creative people that aren’t available to people who aren’t creative but it definitely is a high-risk high-return strategy you know so the overwhelming probability is that you will fail but a small proportion of creative people succeed spectacularly and so it’s like a lottery in some sense you’re probably going to lose but if you don’t lose you could win big and that keeps a lot of creative people going but also they don’t really have much choice in it because if you’re a creative person you’re like a fruit tree that’s that’s bearing fruit so you don’t really have you can suppress it but it’s very bad for you you know the creative people I’ve worked with is if they’re not creative they’re miserable so they have to do it but and then you know there’s real joy and pleasure in it and and the end and end and psychological utility but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s an intelligent it’s certainly not a conservative strategy for moving forward through life so and you know whenever I talk to people who are creative and you guys should listen to this because I know what I’m talking about if you happen to be creative if you’re songwriter are another kind of musician or an artist or or any of the other number of things that you might be find a way to make money and then practice your craft on the side because you will starve to death otherwise now some for some of you that won’t be true but it’s a tiny minority your best bet is to find a job that will keep body and soul together and parse off some time that you can pursue your creative things because then well as a long term strategy you medium to long term strategy it’s a better one but it’s got incredibly difficult for people musicians for example it’s incredibly difficult for new musicians to monetize their their craft even if they’re really really good at it so it’s it’s well so anyway so don’t be so I say well everyone’s not everyone’s not creative and everybody goes oh that’s terrible it’s like it’s not so terrible it’s not something it’s not self-evident that you would curse someone with high levels of creativity so alright so here’s how our creative achievement questionnaire works what we did essentially was we thought up how many domains there are in which you might be creative and this is remember when you’re designing a questionnaire you want to be over-inclusive because the statistics will take care of it right so you can you can take a big area of potential you can take a large area and aim your questionnaire at it and you can do statistics post talk to see if you’re covering the area if the things that you’re measuring are nicely correlated they’re this you know there’s something about them that’s similar if they’re not correlated then maybe you’re measuring two different things and you can get rid of one of them that’s fine so we did start with a pretty wide rage we thought okay well what domains can you be creative in visual arts painting in sculpture then we had experts sort of rank order levels of achievement within those domains and so if you are a painter you can 0 gives you I have no training or recognised talent in this area okay so you really want to keep an eye on the zeros alright so then I have taken lessons people have commented on my talents I have won a prize my work is being critiqued in national publications alright so you get you get you get at zero to seven points but you can indicate more than know maybe that’s happened to you more than once so and what happens this is interesting is that higher you are up this hierarchy the more likely it is that those things have happened to you more than once and that’s that’s another example of this weird thing called the Pareto principle or prices law which is that it’s sort of as good things happen to you the probability that more good things will happen increases right so because once you’re famous people give you all sorts of opportunities to do other things right so your your success doesn’t go like this goes like this zero zero zero skyrocket that’s how it works but getting from zero getting from zero to one if you’re starting a business the hardest customer you’ll ever get is your first one and then the second hardest one will be your second one it’s virtually impossible to get a first customer because they’re going to say to you first of all you’re going to be selling to people who are basically conservative and they’re not going to be evaluate they’re not going to be willing or able to evaluate whether your damn product is good for anything and so they’ll say well who are your other customers and if your answer to that is well we don’t have any it’s like well then what they’re going to be the first one no because people don’t stick their necks out at all not a bit ever and so unless you’re well established in the market especially if you’re dealing with a big company you can just bloody well forget it it’s like a three year sales cycle anyways it’s rigged because big corporations move very very slowly and you might be able to find a small company that doesn’t have much money who would be willing to use your stupid product for nothing if you’re really nice to them and you can get one customer that way it’s very very difficult and so you’ll you’ll end up you know and what do you think the royalty just out of curiosity so I’ve written a book it’s going to be published by penguin Random House and in January what do you think the royalty is for an author on a book so you make something creative you get a percentage of the sale what do you think the percentage is just out of curiosity yes yeah it’s like 5% so think about that so that means that you make your thing and 95% of it belongs to someone else and that’s that things are going quite well for you and it doesn’t really matter what you manufacture or produce that’s about what you can expect sales marketing distribution it eats it all up so it’s all well anyways you need to know these things because they’re not self-evident okay so seems to be working well by itself all right so let’s take a look well how else can you have creative achievement well you can be a musician I have no training or recognize Talent recordings of my composition have been sold publicly that’s the top end my composition has been copyright and recorded critiqued in the local population publication I have composed an original piece of music well let’s try this how many of you have composed an original piece of music wow there’s lots of creative people in here that’s very impressive so there must be 10 or 11 people in here oh that’s cool so how about your copies composition has been copyrighted how about it’s been the recordings have been sold publicly and actually sold how many people – two okay well so what you can see is there’s a rapid drop-off in the number of people who say yes how many of you fit into category zero I have no training a recognised talent in this area yeah okay okay zero is the median score on all of these median is the score that’s the most likely for people to have or it’s different than the mean median score is zero so what’s the median score and the entire creative achievement questionnaire zero you you add up all over all thirteen domains the most typical score is zero so that’s how creative people are there’s zero creative not at all yes well the thing is you could say that people have people all people are creative and that all people could generate ideas but the issue isn’t whether or not you can generate ideas it’s whether or not you can generate ideas that are different from the ideas that other people generate that’s the critical issue because it mean it depends on how you define it you could you well the novelty is a huge part of it but that’s it that sort of built into the definition of creative it has to be novel and useful and if your idea that you generate is the same as the idea that a bunch of other people have it’s not it’s an idea fair enough and if you define creativity that way then everyone’s creative but it’s a foolish way of defining creativity because everyone does it
In this interview ’12 Rules for Life’ author and Clinical Psychologist Jordan Peterson talks with Rob Moore about predictors for entrepreneurial success, the importance of dynamic opposition in a business partnership, and just how crucial marketing and sales skills really are, even for creative artists.