Book / Ideation / Innovation · February 14, 2022

How evolution hinders creativity?

Everyone wants to be more creative.

But creativity doesn’t come naturally to us even when we need it. You must have felt it in a brainstorming discussion at work. Or while trying to think of a nice gift for a loved one – we quickly run out of ideas. We struggle to come up with good solutions to a problem.

Why is it so?

Evolution has designed us to be lazy thinkers. Our brains are power hungry. Food has been scarce for most of the human history and as a consequence, our natural instinct is to think as little as possible to solve a problem at hand.

As soon as the problem gets solved, we stop thinking.

I came across a great demonstration of this phenomenon in the book Conceptual Blockbusting by James L. Adams. Look at the puzzle below. Looking at how some letters are arrange above and some below the line, how would you arrange the rest of the letters?

How would you arrange the rest of the letters – above or below the line?

Take a moment to think about the solution to this puzzle before moving on.

. . . I’ll wait . . .

How many solutions did you come up with? Is it one? Most people on their first encounter with this problem quickly see a solution and as soon as they see it, they stop looking.

The interesting thing is that people come up with very different answers to this simple problem.

Some people tend to notice numerical patterns:

Others notice that the all the “sharp” letters are above and the “round” ones are below of the line. Some observe that the letter at the bottom can all be written without lifting the pen, but the one above the line cannot be. These are all valid answers.

Notice how your perspective has changed about this problem.

Once you see new solutions which you had not thought of, your mental barriers get broken. Your brains admit the possibility of other solutions. You begin thinking more flexibly about the problem.

(There are other possible answers to the above problem, which I will leave for you to find out!)

Exposing yourself to new solutions makes you more creative.

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P.S. Cover Photo by Ross Sneddon on Unsplash