Exactly Where Does Creativity Come From?

Over the last few years, functional MRI testing has given researchers the ability to see inside the brain in real time. Now, according to this month’s Scientific American Mind, researchers at the National Institutes of Health have used jazz pianists to show that improvisation generates activity in the medial prefrontal cortex—the same area that lights up when people are storytelling.

It’s the first scientific evidence that backs what I’ve seen in practice and explored in my thesis: telling stories excites more and better creative ideas than working from facts or tasks. In fact, when you start with a story about personal creativity, people in brainstorming sessions generate more than twice as many ideas.

It also explains why charismatic leaders with visionary stories about change can inspire even huge corporations—those stories turn on the creativity in every person who hears them. Perhaps companies that want innovation throughout the ranks should invest more in finding and telling the right stories.



Elizabeth C. Hechtman said:

I like your thesis. And I would add that improvisation demands that each member of the ensemble takes what is offered, adds to it and passes it along. This is a socially driven creative act which is critical to human well-being. It is the antithesis of individual competitiveness. Human beings are social. We are fulfilled by creating with others. I believe this is at the heart of why activity is generated in the medial prefrontal cortex in your example. Please Tweet me @ElizHek if you want to continue this dialogue.

July 29, 2009 8:27 PM

michael said:

No one has ever shown where the creative spark comes from ???  I think it is similar in many different vocations:  an artist, composer, jazz pianist, writer, architech, planner, etc.  I don'[t think anyone really knows where it comes from?

August 16, 2009 6:16 PM

Monica said:

Creativity comes when we open our minds and look at things from different perspective. We must feed our minds with new and creative ideas and concepts.

http://www.worldinfuture.com/ is perfect example... When you see new solutions to everyday problems it just sparks your creativity.

September 12, 2009 8:04 PM
Comment Guidelines
We encourage your constructive, informal and even challenging comments. To ensure that new comments are relevant to the original article, all comments will be reviewed prior to posting. And, please follow these guiding principles:
  1. No selling of products or services.
  2. 2. No unlicensed or copyrighted material.
  3. 3. No personal privacy or harassment breaches.
  4. 4. No profanity.
We look forward to your contributions to this site.

Leave a Comment


About Lynda Lawrence

Lynda Lawrence is an innovation consultant with Ideaworks Consulting. She teaches Strategic Innovation and Design Management at the Merage School at UCI, and is an advisor to the Beall Center.