What kind of mind enables the creative?
Integration of knowledge across broad ranges of subjects is a characteristic of creativity - and versatility. Research consistently finds that highly creative people tend to have very broad, as well as deep, interests and knowledge. They apply unconventional information and ideas to problems, integrating information in unusual ways across conventional subject areas.
Famed physicist Richard Feynman and his simple demonstration of the space shuttle Challenger's O-Ring disaster is a case in point. By dropping an O-ring into an ordinary glass of ice water, he simply and directly proved it could not stand up to low temperatures. His demonstration integrated an esoteric, bedeviling engineering problem with the mundane.
Feynman was famous for his wide-ranging interests, which included samba bands and experiments on ants. He put no limits on his curiosity about the world.
His measured IQ was in the high range - 124 - but not what IQ test-makers consider genius (135+). Contrary to traditional thought, but consistent with research findings, most people recognized as geniuses through their work do not have IQ's in the 135+ range. No one knows how past geniuses such as DaVinci or Newton would have scored on the IQ test. Given the current findings on IQ creativity, we might be surprised! Research findings show that geniuses need an IQ of at least 116 or better, but after that, all bets are off. (see the research of Csikszentmihalyi on creativity).
Unfortunately, these tests - and most tests - cannot measure working creativity and intelligence. In other words, they don't adequately measure how intelligence is put into life's service by creatively solving problems.
The number of highly creative and successful business people who score average to low on SAT tests, for example, in indicative of the test's inadequacy in measuring working intelligence.
Besides IQ and natural interest across domains, other conditions seem to be equally important to the development of creativity, conditions which we can create in educational settings, thereby enabling education to make a significant difference.
For example, the tendency to amass information from close, first-hand observation is very important. Michael Faraday, pictured at left, exhibited this tendency par excellence. As a young man, he had no formal education and kne only arithmetic, but discovered the laws of electromagnetism through fascinated observation of and experiments on nature.
In a future post, I'll examine how schools can nurture this, and other characteristics of creativity.