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Making creativity and innovation happen
Making creativity and innovation happen

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1.4 The common myths of creativity

Think of the way in a which a ‘genius’, like the late Steve Jobs of Apple Inc., can come up with creative and innovative products in an apparently effortlessly manner, almost as though his talent was a unique and God-given gift. Is this really the case?

Figure 2 Steve Jobs

In his book The Myths of Creativity (2014), David Burkus effectively debunks ten of the most persistent perceptions of creativity. The ten myths Burkus discusses are outlined in Table 1 below.

Table 1 The ten myths of creativity
Eureka mythCreative insights happen in a flash.The creative process requires a time of incubation, where ideas and relevant knowledge linger in the subconscious. Sometimes the ideas connect suddenly, seemingly in a flash, but more often the right connection takes some work after incubation.
Breed mythCreative individuals are a certain type or breed.There is no evidence supporting a creative gene or creative personality type. There is a wealth of evidence showing that creative potential is inside of everyone.
Originality mythCreative ideas are or need to be wholly original concepts.All ideas are new combinations of older ideas. The novelty comes from the combination or application, not the idea itself.
Expert mythInnovative solutions are only found by highly trained experts.Some level of expertise matters, but the most creative solutions come from those on the fringes of the subject area, who know enough to understand but not enough to block their creative thinking.
Incentive mythCreative output correlates with incentives; the higher the incentives, the more creativity.Creativity is highest when individuals are intrinsically motivated and incentives can actually dampen intrinsic motivation.
Lone creator mythGreat creative work happens in isolation, a lone individual slaving away at a problem.Most breakthrough ideas come from teams formed out of the right network of collaborators.
Brainstorming mythCreativity requires brainstorming to find great ideas.Brainstorming is a good tool, but the creative process requires several stages.
Cohesive mythThe best creative teams are completely cohesive.Outstandingly creative teams utilise structured conflict and dissent.
Constraints mythCreativity is highest when totally free and unbounded.Creativity loves constraints.
Mousetrap mythIf you have a great idea (‘build a better mousetrap’) the world will readily accept it.Most great ideas are rejected at first.
(Adapted from: Burkus, 2015)

Activity 2 Exploring the myths of creativity

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Reflecting on your own experience of creativity and innovation, which myths of creativity do you think are the most prevalent? Why do you think this is the case?


As David Burkus has indicated, there are many myths of creativity. At different points in your life you may have felt that some or all of these have merit, yet the reality is somewhat different!

In the next section you will explore the question of where creativity really comes from.