Monday, May 12, 2014

The Trouble With Creative People

Creative people can be a royal pain.

Edward Platt points out that:
A few months back, Andreas Fink at the University of Graz in Austria found a relationship between the ability to come up with an idea and the inability to suppress the precuneus while thinking. The precuneus is the area of the brain that shows the highest levels of activation during times of rest and has been linked to self-consciousness and memory retrieval. It is an indicator of how much one ruminates or ponders oneself and one’s experiences.
For most people, this area of the brain only lights up at restful times when one is not focusing on work or even daily tasks. For writers and creatives, however, it seems to be constantly activated. Fink’s hypothesis is that the most creative people are continually making associations between the external world and their internal experiences and memories. They cannot focus on one thing quite like the average person. Essentially, their stream of ideas is always running—the tap does not shut off—and, as a result, creative people show schizophrenic, borderline manic-depressive tendencies. Really, that’s no hyperbole. Fink found that this inability to suppress the precuneus is seen most dominantly in two types of people: creatives and psychosis patients.
What’s perhaps most interesting is that this flood of thoughts and introspection is apparently vital to creative success.
Borderline psychosis is not the only problem associated with creative people:
Although this stream of introspection and association allows for creative ideas, the downside is that people with “ruminative tendencies” are significantly more likely to become depressed, according (PDF) to the late Yale psychologist Susan Nolen-Hoeksema. Constant reflection takes a toll. Writing, editing, and revising also requires are near obsession with self-criticism, the leading quality for depressed patients.
 And as if all of this weren't bad enough, Annie Murphy Paul points out that creative people have a tendency to pull pranks. A company with a policy of not tolerating such shenanigans is likely stifling creativity -- and is likely to have fired most of their most creative people.

So, what are you supposed to do? Just put up with a bunch of out-of-control, manic-depressive, borderline-psychotic jerks? If you want to have a culture of innovation, the answer is, yes.

Heck, you might have a little fun yourself.

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