Fresh Thinking

Creativity is the highest form of intelligence

September 13, 2008

Creativity is the highest form of intelligence because it goes beyond knowledge recall and extends into knowledge creation. Someone intelligent can be very knowledgeable and have excellent information recall (let’s say for a standardized test), but creativity and innovation require some novel form of intelligence that is of a higher order.

Studies have shown that highly creative people are highly intelligent but highly intelligent people are not always creative. The fact that highly creative people have a higher correlation with intelligence than vice versa suggests creativity is simply a higher form of intelligence. (see Handbook of Creativity, page 261 for support)

Beyond the studies, consider the following simple supporting examples:

Regarded highly intelligent people were also creative: Highly intelligent individuals such as Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and Beethoven were highly imaginative, curious, and creative–all creating new concepts and ideas that have value. For example, Einstein’s famous “thought experiments” were the key to coming up with the Theory of Relativity. Einstein imagined what it would be like to ride a light beam and from thenceforth sprung his insight and understanding of the nature of light and time. This is not to suggest that Einstein didn’t also have a deep understanding of quantum physics and mathematics (measures of his IQ) but his breakthroughs started with his creative imagination. That’s probably why he said “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Ultimately, our high regard for these intelligent individuals comes from their innovations that only their creative intelligence could aspire.

The creation by the Supreme Creator: Life on this planet is so diverse and so imaginative. Just watch one of the six Planet Earth DVDs created by the BBC. The abundance of creative life is astounding. If you believe in God, you most likely consider him Omniscient and the most intelligent person on this earth. No wonder the Supreme Creator is sooo creative! He gets to exercise his intelligence by creating life and being imaginative. If you already know everything, this seems like a great way to pass time. If creativity weren’t the highest form of intelligence, we would probably have a couple species instead of millions.

Creativity is the highest level in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: Once we get beyond survival mode, we have the capability to exercise more fully our intellectual powers to create. Creativity, spontaneity, and problem-solving (often an innovation trigger) are in the upper most triangle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. That is because the upper tier called self actualization represents our need for knowledge where we have enough time to exercise our intelligence and be creative as we strive to improve ourselves. We can think bigger picture rather than focus on putting food on the table. I submit that this is the primary reason why the pace of change has been so dramatic in the past 100 years. Everything has finally aligned so that we have more time to exercise our highest form of intelligence.

Our historical innovation and quest for more innovation: From caveman to renaissance man to modern man, our imaginative thinking has led us to create continual incremental and breakthrough innovation that has accumulated into the luxurious life we enjoy today. As human beings, we all love to create in some form or fashion. What other species is continually creating new things? Why do homosapiens do this? Well…we ARE the highest form of intelligence on this planet and that’s why we are more creative than the other 1.6 million known species. We aren’t comfortable with the status quo. We repeatedly like to make stuff better, faster, cheaper, stronger, easier… The continual creation of new stuff is an expression of our intelligence just as the ongoing changes in the universe could be an expression of God’s intelligence.

The emotional satisfaction that comes from creativity: Music, fine arts, dance, drama, writing and more all involve creation of something tangible or intangible (i.e. knowledge work). From young age to old age, we find deep satisfaction in creation. Why do we like to color, to draw, to play legos when young and later on to create new products, new companies, and new music? We are a highly intelligent species and our our highest form of expression brings satisfaction to the soul! Some would call this emotional, some would call it intuition, and some would call it spiritual.

Unfortunately, our highest form of intelligence is not well measured, well recruited, or well known. We are well-trained in our schools to suppress creative thinking as we are most often measured on knowledge recall rather than knowledge creation. As a society, we often look for safer forms of measurement and recruiting using historical knowledge and tested methodologies. (And that is the irony–because creativity is always risky). Its no wonder some of the brightest minds ever known have been school and social rejects. And it is going to take many risk takers to get our systems and methodologies to step up to higher ground and find more balanced ways to measure our intelligence and recruit for success. Ken Robinson, author of Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, is one of those influential risk takers looking to make big changes to our educational system. Here is one of his inspirational speeches on the matter…

Do you agree that Creativity is the highest form of intelligence? Why or why not?

Founder and CEO of Fresh Consulting, student of all things creative, innovative, and fresh, professional snowboard instructor trainer, father.

  • Jessica

    I really enjoyed your article. It gets you thinking, and I also happen to totally agree!
    I think creativity is soo important, yet it often gets set aside or discouraged. ?
    I liked what you said about God, being the supreme Creator and all, and that’s where we get our creativity. I’d never thought of that, but yes, of course that’s right! Wow!

  • shoshi ganesh

    to think outside the box you have to first get out of the box. and that requires non-conformity. and courage.

  • james kirkpatrick

    if creativity is the highest form of intelligence step back einstein, hawkins move back let mr mcgiver come forth

    • nomarets99

      einstein actually believed in imagination which is a type of creativity

  • tony

    I agree that creativity is the highest form of intelligence, people who are good in school and learn everything off never amount to nothing amazing they let numbers and facts do the thinking for them and are afraid to think outside the box, I have only recently finished school and feel the whole education system is wrong were thought to hold information until test day and regurgitate the information back on the page word for word a lot of students don’t even know what the meaning behind peoms just learned off the theme and a few quotes, without creativity we would be stuck in societies box, we grow up learning and getting a education but never actually grow into individual beings bring difference and innitive to the world instead we stick by the rules go to collage for years and live a meaningless life with a 9-5 job which never satisfys you and forever chasing happiness and wealth its pathetic.
    tony 20, ireland

    • Cailine

      I cant stand here and do nothing. I swear to god when I get out of fucking university i will make a change. This world is going down a spiral of lost humanity and we need to gain the real purpose back. To be happy.

  • genuinely_unfunny

    Bullshit. Creativity will never amount to the highest form of intelligence–logical thinking. Logic will always outweigh creativity (almost purely emotion and character), which are important in presentation but worthless in definition and explanation. Modern science and mathematics would not exist without logic. Creativity plays a role in birthing new theories, but does not play a role in turning those theories to theorems.

    • Nkauj Xwb

      “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

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