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Creativity is Uniquely Human

Explore the human brain and how it evolved to foster creativity.
someone drawing a sketch
© CQUniversity 2021

Children are often seen as being creative. They do not mind painting a tree yellow if they want to, or creating an imaginary world to play in. We often hear, however, that their creativity is reduced once they grow up, and that our current school system does not help them to keep the spark alive.

Even though we know that we need creativity for both social and business innovation, it is still often associated with artists and specific occupations.

Humans have, however, always been creative. It is a skill that sets us apart from other animals. We can come up with new ideas and innovate things or processes that will meet our needs. Without it, we would not have progressed as a species.

‘creative thinking for adapting an original idea to a real-life setting enables human beings to create civilizations different from other animal worlds’
Park et al (2016) from Neuro-Scientific Studies of Creativity.
Tim Brown (2015), Executive Chair of IDEO (a global design company) takes a similar position in the video below:
‘We have to have creativity in order to get to new solutions. If we don’t have creativity, if we aren’t making leaps of the imagination then all our “new ideas” are just old ideas repackaged’

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Brown is one of the people who popularised Design Thinking as a creative method to solve problems in a more human centred way. As a designer, he views creativity as a key skill for designing and solving complex problems.

He links creativity with ‘leaps of our imagination’. We need to take these leaps to be able to come up with new ideas that can solve problems.

Professor Keith Simonton is a world-leading expert on creativity and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California. He points out that even everyday creativity is something that has enabled us to evolve as humans (Simonton & Lebuda 2019).

Simonton makes it clear that creativity is not just happening when we are actively trying to be creative. He explains that even a ‘simple walk in the park can stimulate creativity’ (p. 144), because it allows us to let our thoughts wander and different neural connections to be made.

This is something that is now accepted by neuroscientists as a core creative process. They refer to this mind-wandering moment as incubation. We will look more closely at this concept later within the course.

Okay, so it is important and something innately human, but this does not really explain what it is. Let us unpack creativity a bit further in the next step. First, though, let’s get talking!


To be a successful leader, in any field, you should think about how you can get people to be more creative in their workplace. What has been your experience with this?

Have you had a job where you felt encouraged to be creative?


Brown, T. (2015). How Does Creativity Help Solve Problems? Retrieved from here.
Simonton, Dean Keith & Lebuda, Izabela (2019) A Golden Age for Creativity Research: Interview with Dean Keith Simonton. Creativity Theories – Research – Applications. 6(1), 140-146, 10. 1515/ctra-2019-0009. Link.
Sun-Hyung Park, Kwang Ki Kim, Jarang Hahm, Neuro-Scientific Studies of Creativity, Dement Neurocogn Disord 2016:15(4):110-114
© CQUniversity 2021
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