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Why The Concept of Creativity is a Myth...

I finally finished the book "Talent is Overrated" by Fortune Editor-at-Large, Geoff Colvin, which explores the question of whether pure talent or hard, focused work is the key to becoming a world class performer in any discipline.  As you might expect, the book concludes that you can't become world class at anything without putting in tons of hours on your craft and making sure those hours are focused in a certain way.  I read it.  I'm a believer.

The following is one of four quick primers I'll do on the book focused on the following concepts: 1) whatTalent is overrated Deliberate Practice is, 2) applying the concepts of Deliberate Practice to the workplace and your organization, 3) why creativity/innovation is a myth, 4) why great talent continues to perform as it ages, and 5) where passion comes from and the "multiplier effect".

Primer #3 - Why Creativity/Innovation (as we know it) is a myth.

One of the biggest things that challenged me in "Talent is Overrated" is Colvin's take on Innovation.  I, like many of you, like to think of world-class innovators as touched by god and different than most of us in unexplainable ways - other than they're very, very talented and unique.

Colvin, as you might expect, goes back to the blood, sweat, and tears of deliberate practice and offers up this perspective:

"Understanding where innovation comes from is particularly important because we tend to believe deeply that this type of performance, even more than others, is a mysterious gift.  It's easier for most of us to believe that a great tennis player achieved his succes through the principles of deliberate practice than to believe that a great inventor got there that way.  But the evidence shows that the most important factor in their high achievement is the same for both.  Professor Raymond S. Nickerson of Tufts University has written that "the importance of domain-specific knowledge" as a determinant of creativity is generally underestimated, even though investigators have given it considerable emphasis." What makes the biggest difference is the willingness to go through the demanding process of acquiring that knowledge over time.  David N. Perkins of Harvard, surveying the many factors that have been proposed as important elements of creativity, wrote, "The clearest evidence of all demonstrates the connection between creative thinking and values broadly contstrued - a person's commitments and aspirations...Much more than we usually suppose, creating is an intentional endeavor".  Wanting to achieve mastery of a field, committing to the long, hard work of achieving it, and then intending to innovate-that's how it happens".

And, so it goes according to Colvin (which also matches up with Gladwell's take in the book , "Outliers"), who reminds us for every "a-ha" moment in a lab or a studio, there's likely 10,000 hours of grunt work that's been put in off-camera...

Comments

Dan McCarthy

Kris –
I like Colvin’s stuff. It’s so true; talent is the result of hard work and experience. The same is true for leadership… there are no “natural born leaders”. The good ones are a product of their experience and hard work.

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