Vol 5. Issue 38 / December 12, 2005

The Seven Habits of Highly Creative People

By Mika Ono

American scientist and inventor Thomas Edison once said that genius is 99 percent perspiration and one percent inspiration. Nonetheless, Edison's inventions of the light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture show just how creative he could be. A recent seminar on The Scripps Research Institute's La Jolla campus helped participants tap into their own creative potential.

"A lot of people think of creativity as being a musician or an artist," said seminar leader Lee Silber, author of several books on creativity, "but it is much more than that. You can apply creative thinking to all areas of your life. It can help you be more effective at your job."

The lively workshop, which was part of the Counseling and Postdoctoral Services Department's ongoing Lunch & Learn series for Scripps Research employees, focused on seven key qualities of highly creative people and how to enhance these qualities in yourself. According to Silber, creative people are:

  • Solution-Oriented. "Creative people are always asking, 'Is there a better way to do this?'" said Silber. To promote creativity, Silber suggested recording ideas as they come to you, for example starting an "idea journal," keeping a cassette player handy, or e-mailing ideas to yourself.

  • Curious. Kids provide us with a ready example of creativity, and curiosity is one of their key traits. They often seem to wonder, "What would happen if… ?"

  • Observant. New ideas can come from new input. Steve Jobs, for example, drew on his diverse interests, including calligraphy, to design the Apple computer. "Vary your routine," recommended Sibler. "Do something that makes you nervous. Get out of your comfort zone."

  • Resourceful. Limited resources are often a fact of life, but this can act as a catalyst for creativity rather than an obstacle. "How many uses can you think of for a clothespin?" Silber challenged the audience, illustrating one problem of how to do more with less.

  • Rule Breakers. "Well, let's say 'rule benders,'" amended Silber. "The point is that creative people don't accept things the way they are."

  • Right-Brainers. Silber thinks of creativity as a right-brain force, waging a battle with its left-brain counterpart, the inner critic, whose trademark is thoughts like "You can't do that. That's already been tried. There's no way that is going to work." In contrast, creativity helps you get back to a place where anything is possible.

  • Playful and Fun. According to Silber, creative people enjoy the process of solving a problem.

Thomas Edison would agree. While often extolling the virtues of effort and persistence, Edison also said, "I never did a day's work in my life. It was all fun."

For more information on the Scripps Research Counseling and Postdoctoral Services Department, see http://www.scripps.edu/services/counseling. The website includes a list of resources for Scripps Research employees, including videos and books on a variety of topics such as parenting, relationships, careers, health, budgeting, and stress management, and DVDs of past Lunch & Learn seminars. For more information on Lee Silber, see http://www.creativelee.com.


Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu



Author Lee Silber led a lively Lunch & Learn seminar that focused on creativity and its many uses. Photo by Kevin Fung.







"Results! Why man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won't work."

—Thomas Edison