The Most Creative Are Certainly The Most Inflexible

Posted on June 11, 2013 in Specials

By Lata Jha: 

If I’m not mistaken, one of the most oft-repeated quotes in those morning assemblies at school was ‘Change is the only thing constant in life’. That you have to always be open to new ideas, thoughts and experiments to widen your horizon in life. Rigidity results in stagnancy, and that is absolutely unfruitful for a life where you’re meant to only look ahead.

4848880460_25bd1d396d_oIt is surprising, therefore, that reports actually suggest that the most creatively endowed and successful people are actually absolutely unwavering in their decisions and choices. They cling to ideas so fiercely that they find it absolutely impossible to shift focus even slightly. They do not want to change perspective, think differently or adopt what might be recommended by the world.

An experiment conducted at Northwestern University in Illinois, brought around 300 children together, about 19 of whom had outstanding creative achievements and 15 whose scores categorised them as the least creative and they filled up a questionnaire. In the tests conducted, it was discovered that those really brilliant at art, music or dance found it difficult to shift focus at all. They could, for instance, not identify patterns where smaller alphabets together made up a bigger alphabet. Those ranked lower on the creativity scale were more comfortable adapting to change.

The research may help explain why autistic people, who often tend to focus obsessively, can be unusually creative. Paradoxically, it may also help explain the link between the attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and creative success or brilliance.

The common perception is that people with ADHD do not focus on anything. But the truth is that they focus so strongly on one particular thing that they can’t even imagine doing something else. Indeed, about 30 to 50% of autistic people also suffer from ADHD.

Which is why it’s probably time we stop categorizing people so arbitrarily. We all realize that balance is the key to healthy and happy living. One needs both the persistence to stick to ideas and the flexibility to change with time and adopt newer ways of thinking. But at the end of the day, everyone has their own mantra for success.

Photo Credit: Nina Matthews Photography via Compfight cc