The power and importance of creativity

Creativity is the funnel through which we filter ideas. By tapping into the creative potential of your employees, you can support internal relationships, enhance productivity, encourage innovation and position your organization as an industry leader.

The power and importance of creativity

We are capable of acquiring and retaining immense amounts of information over the life-time of an individual; we are capable of learning and fine-tuning a great many skills and new activities; and we are capable of using and interpreting speech.

But one of the most striking species-specific features of Homo sapiens sapiens, surely, is the degree of creativity and innovation which we display in our thought and behavior, both within the lives of individuals and across different human cultures.

This manifests itself in story-telling, in art, in the construction of bodily ornaments and decorations, in humor, in religion-building, in theory-construction, in problem-solving, in technological innovation, and in myriad other ways. Creativity, as I shall understand it, will normally manifest itself in new types of behavior, going beyond mere re-applications of established scripts or action-patterns.

And creativity itself is constituted, in part, by a capacity to combine together ideas in novel ways in abstraction from any immediate environmental stimulation see section 2 below for further discussion. So a creature adopting a novel solution to an environmental problem may be acting creatively, whereas one which is merely applying an old solution in new circumstances e.

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What makes the distinctively-human degree of creativity possible? And how did our creative capacity evolve? These are the two main questions to which I propose to sketch answers in this paper.

To elaborate on them a little in reverse order: Is our creativity a mere by-product of other selected-for traits such as our language-capacity, or bigger brains? Or was it selected for in its own right? And either way, what are its cognitive pre-requisites? That is to say, what had to be in place within our cognition initially, which either provided the sufficient conditions for our greatly enhanced creativity to make its appearance, or which supplied the background against which some sort of disposition to engage in creative activities could emerge or get selected for?

My hope is to sketch out a framework for further enquiry, and to render it just plausible enough to encourage others to pursue these questions and to seek some of the necessary evidence from the standpoint of their own interdisciplinary perspectives.

The power and importance of creativity

Any account of the evolutionary origins of creativity has to be consistent with the fossil record, of course. There is an emerging consensus that Homo sapiens sapiens first appeared someyears ago in Southern Africa.

And there is evidence from about 90, years ago that this species was of basically modern intelligence, accumulating knowledge about its environment and making a number of important technological innovations; but that it was crucially lacking in creative imagination Mithen [].

Although the working of wooden artifacts may have undergone some change, and bone tools were introduced for the first time, essentially the same range of stone tools as had been employed by later sub-species of Homo erectus continued to be used unchanged for tens of thousands of years.

And there was little sign of the use of body-ornaments and no sign of the production of art and little evidence of religionuntil all these burst onto the scene together with new stone-tool industries some 40, years ago on a world-wide basis Stringer and Gamble []; Mithen [].

So far as we can tell from the archaeological record, then, human creativity first manifested itself to any significant degree about 40, years ago, continuing to emerge independently around the globe over the nextyears.

The question is, what happened in the intervening 50,plus years from the first emergence of our species?

The puzzle is compounded by the fact that by the time of the creative explosion human beings were already widely separated around the globe, and had been so for at least 20, years with Australia having been reached by boat for the first time some 60, years ago.

Yet this upsurge in human creativity occurred more-or-less simultaneously around the world give-or-take 10, years. These facts set one of the central puzzles which any account of the origins of creativity needs to address. Yet neither of these alternatives looks initially very plausible.

For on either account, how are we to explain why the relevant developments should have been constrained to take place in parallel amongst dispersed human populations?

In what follows I shall canvass a number of possible explanations of human creativity, each of which carries different implications for the cognitive underpinnings and likely evolution of that capacity.

These explanations will be assessed both for intrinsic plausibility and for how successfully they can explain the 20, year gap between the geographical dispersal of modern humans and the appearance of physical manifestations of significant degrees of creativity in the fossil record.

But these accounts will also be assessed for the extent to which they can explain the connection between adult creativity and childhood pretend play. This desideratum will be elaborated and defended in the next section. From the age of about eighteen months all normal children, in all human cultures, start to do something which when viewed from an external perspective, at least appears very odd indeed — they begin to pretend.

They engage in imaginary conversations with make-believe characters talking to a doll; inventing an imaginary companion and they pretend to be engaging in a wide variety of adult or fictional activities talking into a banana as if it were a telephone; pretending to cook and eat mud pies; pretending to be a bird or an airplane.

The young of no other species of creature on earth behaves like this in natural circumstances — not even the other great apes although adult hand-reared and language-trained chimps have sometimes been observed to engage in activities which look very much like pretence, at least; see Jolly [].

I shall argue in a moment that the two capacities can be seen as sharing essentially the same cognitive basis, in so far as both involve exercises of imagination.

It will then be plausible that adult creativity in thought and action is what childhood pretence is for. This will be yet another indicator of the importance of creativity as a phenotypic property of human beings.4 Statistics that Promote the Power of Creativity in the Workplace.

By Leah Farmer in Creative on February 17th, Share this article: Creativity is the funnel through which we filter ideas. By tapping into the creative potential of your employees, you can support internal relationships, enhance productivity, encourage innovation and.

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