Human Creativity: A Recipe

08 Mar 23 Rachel Pearson


What makes us humans creative? My generation (child of the 80’s if you’re wondering) seemed to talk about creativity like it was some kind of special gift or talent only a chosen few had. It was also always related to the arts. It’s such a narrow view of such an expansive and naturally human attribute. Surely everyone and everything has the potential or ability to be creative?

Creativity isn’t some magical fairy dust that we sprinkle on ourselves every morning, nor is it only reserved for the artistic mind. But, it’s not quite the intangible, mystical element people seem to think it is. A lot of being creative is actually rooted in practicality and discipline. Sexy stuff, huh?

So what’s our take on the recipe for a creative person?

A big dollop of imagination. Folks can come up with some wild ideas that don’t exist in the real world. Imagination is like having a playground in your head and humans are capable of imagining things that do not yet exist, which allows us to come up with new and innovative ideas. You could argue that robots don’t have this human quality and that’s what sets us apart.

A few ladles of curiosity. Some might call it nosiness, but I like to think of it as a burning desire to explore. Humans have an innate desire to understand the world around them. That leads to the development of new ideas and concepts. And hey, who knows what kind of wacky ideas we’ll stumble upon while we’re poking our noses where they may or may not belong? Curiosity and imagination are muscles that can be exercised through play. Play is how everyone makes sense of the world, and that has its roots in curiosity. Imagination is where we use play to push the boundaries of possibility.

To bring out their creativity, people also need to infuse flexibility into their approaches. They need to be able to shape-shift and bend their minds like an overzealous yoga instructor to come up with new solutions to problems. It’s like watching a contortionist at a circus, but with more brain power and less creepy clown makeup…well, sometimes. Creative individuals are often able to think outside that bloody infamous box everyone is always trying to get out of. Fostering the ability to be flexible allows them to come up with unique and innovative solutions and dims the heartache of being beholden to a certain way of doing things.

Creativity isn’t all fun and games. It takes persistence and resilience to come up with those brilliant ideas that actually work. There are often tortured creative meltdowns along the way to genius but it’s all part of the process. We must be ok with failing and failing again, and then fail better, until finally, something sticks.
And…failure has had a recent and very positive rebrand – (ref. Elizabeth Day’s Failosophy) and rightly so because sharing our ‘test and learn’ inner workings makes us more relatable and helps build lasting connections. It also means a lot less BS in the world.

Because human creativity takes persistence and resilience, it also requires a balancing through passion! Creative folks are often fueled by a burning desire to create, innovate, to be the best, work with the best and produce work that would make MrBeast, Martin Scorsese and Monet’s work look like dog sh*t. People like this seem like they’re on a mission from the creativity gods themselves. Passion is what gets the vision realised.

On a final note, tools don’t have their place in the recipe for a creative person. Tools are wielded by individuals for creative purposes. If creativity is a recipe, then tools are the utensils, the pots and pans. You generally can’t pull the best possible creative ideas and options out of thin air. You need to know your stuff, and tools can’t do that. Even with the AI tools we’ve seen in recent months. Creative humans have the know-how, context and experience to back up and refine ideas. Individuals often have a deep understanding of their field and, regardless of whether that field is traditionally considered ‘creative’, they are able to draw on their humanity in a way a tool can’t.

Creativity is a beautiful, wild, blissful, and often painful ride, but it’s what makes us humans so darn special regardless of our chosen discipline. From maths to marketing, from basket-weaving to big data, we’re all creative.

Check out some of the work from our creative humans.