Creativity is not just for the right brained

Up until a month ago, I never considered myself truly creative.  I know what you are thinking: you design buildings for a living; such a concept goes against the grain of your profession.  Let me explain.  I grew up with the notion that being creative meant that a person created something from thin air.  This right-brained creative was a painter, a sculptor, an author or a starchitect.  I don’t create from thin air, I collect information from the client (design aesthetic, programmatic needs, budget, etc.) in order to solve a problem (create state-of-the-art office building). I consider myself more of a synthesizer than a master artist.  So what changed?

Recently, Newsweek ran an article which claimed Americans’ creative aptitude has been declining since 1990.  The article cites multiple reasons that range from technology to education. There were also supporting articles about testing Creative Intelligence as well as links to studies researching ‘creativity’.  As I wound my way down the internet rabbit hole, I discovered that creativity is not just a right-brained operation. It is not just about the no rules, free for all expression we are taught in grade school art class.  Creativity is about a process of solving a problem. It requires both the left and the right brain for divergent (multiple unique ideas) and convergent thinking (combining ideas into the best possible solution). Holy cow!  That is exactly how I would define my process.  I am a creative after all!

Perhaps the most intriguing part of this discovery is that creativity is teachable.  It is not a genetic anomaly, but is a skill that is nurtured over time and with lots of practice.  It does not need to be taught behind an easel or a throwing wheel, but in the tasks of our everyday lives by exercising both hemispheres of the brain.  You, too, can be a creative.

Next time you are faced with a problem start by asking yourself to come up with a solution that no one would think of – no matter how outlandish.  The more you can think of the better.  Then start evaluating or poking holes in each answer.  Look for abstract or alternate meaning in the solutions presented. This process may lead to an all together different set of solutions.  Keep repeating the process until you have a viable solution to your original problem. Although simplistic, this process utilizes both the rational and artistic hemispheres of the brain and will start to shape your ‘creative cap’.

This is a quick online test to determine whether you are right brain or left brain dominate. Right Brain vs Left Brain Creativity Test at The Art Institute of Vancouver

In the next few posts I will explore ways to boost creativity and creativity’s link with innovation.

Jinger Tapia | Director, Design