Like many, I have often promoted a fairly consensual image of creative people: a person who loves ideas, who is visionary, and who seeks to make his ideas come true.
That’s maybe because I have always considered myself as an idealist who opens his mind and looks for new insights in the intersections.
Yet, creativity can emerge from more diverse and even contradictory states of mind. According to Gary Klein in Seeing What Others Don’t, more introverted, skeptical, or highly critical personalities can in some cases be very creative.
Attitudes as different as imaginative, curious and concrete, skeptical and suspicious minds, or even non-apparent creative spirits, are also capable of inventing new ideas.
Here are 4 opposite examples of creative personalities that will help you find your own hidden creative profile.
Loving to cultivate ideas and to connect the dots
The first figure of the creative, certainly the best known, is the one capable of finding unexpected connections between different fields. This is the image of the visionary innovator, who has a passionate idea in his head and wants to prove it.
Martin Chalfie, a biologist at Columbia University, fits this model of the idea-loving scientist. Chalfie spent his research studying the nervous system of specific species of worms. By studying a specimen more closely, he discovered that it had translucent skin. Later, while attending a conference on the bioluminescence skills of jellyfish, he had unexpected enlightenment.
He had the idea of getting the fish’s bioluminescent protein into the worm and to study its internal processes while alive. By connecting his rigorous research on an expert subject with ideas from other fields, he achieved to connect the dots in a new way.
His discovery has led him to a valuable solution that enables scientists to analyze and study the processes of the living at the moment they are taking place. And incidentally to a noble prize.
This spirit, passionate about specific expertise but also open to new ideas, is the classic symbol of the innovator.
It embodies the attitude of the genius who lives his eureka moment and connects things in a new way.
Like them, if you are an inveterate idealist and in love with your ideas (like me), keep on being passionate about new perspectives on your work. It’s a great source of creativity!
Yet, in the meantime, many other creative attitudes are less consensual.
Being Curious and Open to Strange Coincidences
The second figure, less consensual, is that of the investigator always on the lookout for strange and unusual details. His curiosity leads him to study strange and uncommon processes, which stimulates his thirst for knowledge.
Wilhelm Roentgen, a physicist who spent his time studying cathodic rays in his laboratory, is one such example. During his research, he noticed that a barium platinocyanide screen glowed unusually when his devices emitted cathodic rays even though the screen was covered.
He could have overlooked this phenomenon as something insignificant. But it immediately seemed strange to him, and he started to investigate it to find out what he was really dealing with.
Eventually, he realized that the light emitted came from a new kind of physical ray, the X-rays. Yet, the scientific community was reticent about this idea. They felt that if other rays existed, they would have been found by now.
But Roentgen’s curiosity for this object was too strong, and he found evidence that convinced the skeptics.
Without necessarily being great men of ideas, these types of scientists are passionate about subjects stimulating their curiosity. By sticking to the investigation and the search for new evidence, they often come across great discoveries.
If you’re the curious type, keep trusting your instincts. Trust your instincts when they tell you that there is something strange about a given situation. Then you will always find a new perspective.
Having a Skeptical Mind and Questioning Everything
The third figure is more on the side of doubt and rational, evidence-based research. In the face of new situations, this kind of person stays with their critical spirit and their usual suspicion, until they find evidence to support their certainty.
The personality of John Snow, a physician, and surgeon of the late 19th century, embodies this analytical attitude. As the scientific community agreed that cholera was spreading because of poor sanitation, Snow noticed a strange incident.
The day after a sailor died of cholera in a lodging room, another person in the same room contracted cholera but not the others. This immediately made the surgeon doubt the truth of the prevailing theory. For how could the same environment not produce the same effects?
He then decided to inspect the damage caused by the environment on the lungs of the victims and noticed nothing. The damage was on the digestive system. This only increased Snow’s suspicion and doubt.
This attitude prompted him to multiply experiments and the production of evidence to convince the scientific community. Alas, the scientific community never believed his theory of his life, and it was only after a few years that his stubbornness paid off.
The attitude of this kind of scientist is an innate intellectual suspicion, an ability to detect and seriously consider the contradictions of established theories. This allows them to question truths and find new ones to advance their knowledge and make discoveries.
Getting Creative only Under Pressure
The last figure represents individuals who are not necessarily creative in normal times, but who are resourceful when the situation demands it. They are capable of finding unexpected solutions to problems that require urgent resolution.
This is what Wagner Dodge, a firefighter by profession, experienced in 1949. During a fight against forest fire, he and his team were trapped by the fire multiplying on all sides, whose speed of movement increased with the fire.
Eventually, they found themselves stuck on a mountainside, without having time to go up the hill in time for the fire. Dodge then had a dazzling intuition to escape.
Seeing the fire coming, he had the incredible idea of escaping the fire by the fire, burning the vegetation in front of him, and immediately throwing himself into it.
This unexpected gesture allowed him to avoid being burned by the violence of the fire which was feeding on the vegetation nearby.
In the same way as Dodge, some people are highly creative in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles, which require almost desperate creativity. Without necessarily being in life-or-death situations, they manage to use their creative resources when under pressure to find a solution quickly.
If you are part of this type of creative people, learn to force yourself to action and decisions under challenging conditions, and encourage listening to your natural intuitions.
Ultimately, it’s about finding the creative style that suits your personality best. Your turn to find your deepest creative resources!