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Creativity Coaching – The Myth of Creative Genius

As a Creativity Coach I was interested this morning to listen to Anna Maria Tremonti’s interview with author Kevin Ashton on CBC Radio’s “The Current”.  Ashton explores the idea that we tend to associate creative inspiration with a sort of magical “aha moment” in which a person gets an idea that changes the world or brings something into being that has never been seen before.  Ashton’s idea is that all of us are creative and that all of the innovations that we might atribute to one or two very smart people are actually built on the work of many, many people, even if only one or two get the credit.

Dr Ashton suggests that the idea of creative genius came about to allow certain people to hold an elitist position in society.  The myth surrounding creativity helps make the majority of people think that they are not creative and therefore allows only a few to claim that they are set apart from the rest of society.

This is an interesting idea and has both merit and influence on how we ordinary people conceptualize creativity. If we believe that creativity is the domain of the brilliant and talented and therefore not available to the ordinary person we are likely to feel limited in what we can do.  As soon as we are stymied by a problem, we may begin to doubt our own talent or brilliance.  If we believe that really successful creators got their ideas in a flash of insight, we may not connect with the reality of creativity which involves a great deal of trial and error and building on the work of others.

This is not to say that successful creative people don’t have good ideas and don’t work very hard.  It is to suggest that any one of us have the potential for success but it is more dependent on hard work than on some nebulous idea of talent or brilliance.

These ideas can also free us up from the illusion that we need to come up with something new and innovative in order to be creative. All of our creativity rides on the backs of those who have come before us.  Since all of us are creative, we are free to both create and to encourage others around us to be creative.

If you want to listen to the interview here is where you can find it:


Kevin Ashton dismantles creative genius in ‘How to Fly a Horse’

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