A View on the Relationship Between Intelligence and Creativity
By Tom Bruno Magdich
Imagine you are walking alone, on your way home, late at night and you are suddenly surrounded by two, hefty muggers. Just as they are about to accost you, time freezes and out of nowhere Neo, the hero character from the Matrix Trilogy appears and grants you one wish. He says: " It's your lucky day because you get to choose one of the following creative, intelligent and talented people to come and help you."
• Marie Curie
• Mariah Carey
• Bruce Lee
• Bill Gates
Which would you choose and why?
Take a moment to reflect before you read any further.
Okay who did you go for?
Well, unless we want someone to sing the attackers to death, Mariah is out of the picture. Bill Gates could offer them some cash, but I doubt if ever carries any, and Arnie is a big guy but also a bit slow.
I'd be staking my money, and my life, on Bruce Lee; If he were alive of course.
The fact is that Bruce Lee had a specific talent for fighting unlike any other martial arts expert. This is because he was both physically creative and intelligent.
He applied his creative ability to developing new and innovative moves to build his unique form of martial arts that he called Jeet Kune Do (The Way of the Intercepting Fist).
He applied his intelligence to identifying where to deliver devastating blows on the opponents body and when, with a clever and calculated precision.
When we look at highly successful individuals who are known for a specific talent we can see something more than mere virtuosity. We see a combination of intelligence and creativity.
Most people I've talked to don't immediately think of creativity and intelligence as a combo. Creativity is often seen as a 'special' gift or capability reserved for naturally talented individuals who work in the arts, while intelligence is usually associated with academics.
But the more we explore this area we discover that creativity can be expressed in everyday behaviours, in any number of ways; from figuring out how to get yourself back into your home after having locked yourself out without a key, to putting together a list of dinner guests.
Now, you might be thinking these are simply examples of problems that need solving with some rational and logical thought. However, the novelty and effectiveness of the solution you come up with will determine whether your idea is creative, intelligent or a combination of both. Interestingly there seems to be a strong relationship between intelligence and creativity and there are many more than just one type of intelligence.
This was explored in some detail by the developmental psychologist Howard Gardner and his theory of 'Multiple Intelligences' 1993.
Gardner believes that we do not have just one IQ but rather we potentially have multiple Intelligences. He also suggests that each intelligence has it's own IQ. This flies in the face of traditional thinking where a person is normally assumed to have just one, high, low or average intelligence. Added to this, research by various creativity experts suggests that people are often driven to think more creatively when they are motivated by something they personally value.
For instance if you love food, you may look for innovative ways to prepare vegetables. If you enjoy socializing, you may come up with creative ideas for themed parties. If you are a mathematician, you may enjoy the creativity inherent in the theory of quantum physics and if you are a passionate sports person you may express creativity in the way you play your sport. For example David Beckham is a very stylish and creative soccer player.
Creativity at it's most dramatic is a behaviour driven by two impulses.
• The impulse to express an idea.
• The impulse to bring into being a new reality.
And we will often have more talent for subjects and tasks that are in alignment with our natural preferences.
But before we explore further let's look at how some experts describe creativity?
"Creativity is the forming of associative elements into new combinations which either meet specified requirements or are in some way useful." S.A.Mednick 1962
" Creativity is defined as a process of becoming sensitive to problems, deficiencies, gaps in knowledge, missing elements and disharmonies. E.P Torrence 1966
"Creativity can be regarded as the quality of products of responses judged to be creative by appropriate observers, and it can also be regarded as the process by which something so judged is produced."
T.M. Amabile 1983
"Creativity is a combination of a high level of intelligence combined with a novel or eccentric approach to life and it's challenges. However, some of the most highly creative people, from any walk of life will be able to express themselves in 4 dimensions- Physically, Intellectually, Emotionally and Spiritually."
P.E. Waller 2011
Intelligence is usually associated with the ability to effectively think both logically and abstractly, and process, store and articulate large amounts of knowledge and information. But it is proving to be much broader than we think.
We now know for instance there is something called EQ, also known as 'Emotional' intelligence, as outlined in the works of Daniel Goleman 1999, Howard Gardner -Harvard, Peter Salovey -Yale and John 'Jack' Mayer - New Hampshire.
There is also an intelligence called SQ - 'Spiritual' intelligence, a subject on which Dan Zohar has written extensively. SQ could be described as your inner drives and motivations energised by your values and beliefs.
Then there is 'Physical' intelligence. Science has long revealed that the body has it's own communication systems carried along the nerves by 'intelligent' chemicals and hormones. For example performers, singers, actors, and athletes rely on this type of intelligence of the body.
Lets have a deeper look at Howard Gardner's multiple intelligence types and see how and where they fit into the categories of the four dimensions of human expression.
The following three types of intelligences as identified by Gardner could be categorised under 'Physical' intelligence and each can be applied creatively.
Visual Spatial intelligence - Thinking that is primarily in pictures. People expressing this type of intelligence have a high level of physical awareness and understand how they relate to and occupy space. This would include artists, engineers, and architects.
Kinaesthetic intelligence - This type of intelligence includes a high level of control of bodily movement with an ability to handle objects skillfully. This would be a capability possessed by successful athletes, dancers, actors, surgeons, comedians, builders and artisans. People like Vanessa Williams, Michael Jordan, Jim Carrie, Dr Christian Bernard, Fred Astaire and Beyoncé Knowles.
Musical intelligence - The person who expresses this intelligence has a high level of sensitivity to rhythm, melody, and sound. It would include instrumentalists, singers, conductors, and composers. Even though Beethoven lost his hearing, his creative intelligence was so high in this area he was still able to continue composing right up to the end of his life, when he was completely deaf.
The next two types of intelligence would fit into the standard measures for Intellect.
Logical intelligence - People with this capacity include scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors and economists. Albert Einstein is the most famous scientist expressing a 'creative intelligence' for logical thought. He once imagined himself riding on a sunbeam and zooming out into the universe and came up with the 'General Theory of Relativity'. This eventually led to modern day physics (quantum physics) which is very creative theory indeed.
Linguistic intelligence - This group includes writers, lawyers, philosophers, politicians and teachers. Anyone that can work creatively with language will be expressing linguistic intelligence. James Joyce and William Shakespeare are the obvious contenders that most of us will have heard of.
The third type of intelligence can be described as Spiritual/motivational and Gardner has identified what he calls:
Existential intelligence - This includes Philosophers and mystics. Many of whom are very creative in terms of articulating and expressing their experiences. We might think of the great ancient Greek philosophers like Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus who were the first to create ideas about atoms and the interconnection of the universe. This was way before anyone ever knew about the big bang or quantum physics. And just before Galileo pointed his telescope out into the night sky a mystic monk called Giordano Bruno (1548 -1600) used his imagination to visualise our universe as a place where there are many other suns with earth like planets around them; and also that the universe was infinite with no centre. Unfortunately his creative intelligence cost him his life. However we are now discovering that what he imagined is probably true.
Finally we have the 'Emotional' dimension, which would include:
Interpersonal intelligence - Important for politicians, managers, teachers, social workers and diplomats. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were masters of creatively applying their emotional intelligence to connect with people. Sadly for both, some might say their creativity caused them to finish up painting way 'off the emotional canvas'.
Intra-personal intelligence - This is the ability to explore, understand and create our own internal world through thoughts and imagination. Expressed by psychologists, theologians, writers and scientists. Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, arguably the godfathers of psychoanalysis, were incredibly intelligent and creative in this dimension. In fact much of Carl Jung's writings and drawings appear to be more like works of art and poetry than psychological theory.
Referring to Gardner's ideas we can begin to create a model that actually helps to offer us a definition for the word creativity as an experience of an individual using and expressing specific and diverse intelligences in creative ways. Therefore we might now be more specific in saying that talent might be described as the expression of different types of 'Creative Intelligence'.
How do you express yours?
Specialising in the areas of employee engagement, theatre and entertainment, leadership, creativity and innovation and communication skills, I work extensively with clients at all levels in business and particularly with people at executive level. Clients have included senior managers and CEOs in the banking, insurance and finance sector, marketing, retail, media and entertainment, pharmaceuticals, IT and engineering. I have co- authored a book on the subject of self-presentation 'The Energetics of Charisma' (available from Amazon and LuLu.com). Most recently I have co-developed and launched a leading edge, learning and development programme for innovation and employee engagement called 4D Human Being. More information can be found by visiting my websites http://www.4Dhumanbeing.com and http://www.charismalab.com