A recent article in Quartz suggests that in order to be more creative, you need to feel more comfortable being alone. Different studies are cited, including one in 2012 that indicated that spending 4 days immersed in nature would improve creative problem solving by 50%. Even Apple founder Steve Wozniak was quoted saying that inventors and engineers work like artists, and need to be alone, outside of their companies, where they can invent peacefully without others affecting them.

However, the article adds, one has to feel comfortable being alone, which is hard. The article describes another study in which participants were asked to spend up to 15 minutes in a room with no stimulation, and many of them preferred to zap themselves with electric shocks just to avoid feeling lonely and bored, and to avoid thoughts they want to suppress.

According to James Webb Young, who wrote "A Technique for Producing Ideas" in 1939, there are 5 steps for the creativity process, the third of which is unconscious processing, which is also why procrastinating helps in the generation of creative ideas. Those old ideas that were collected and stored in our brains need to incubate before they can be combined into new, creative ideas.

So introverts are more creative?

However, the generation of ideas may not be an individual function. Brainstorming builds on combination of ideas from multiple people, when ideas from one person are enhanced by another, leading to a product that none of the participants in the brainstorming session could have envisioned individually. In my personal experience, my best ideas came out when I was with other people. Even if they didn't consciously contributed to them, even the fact that I had to explain my ideas to them made my original ideas better, and solved problems to which I didn't have solutions before. Group brainstorming is hard on introverts, though. They would rather just be left alone to think, and thus will not benefit from thoughts of others. In fact, a 1982 study of the correlation between the Myers Briggs type Indicator (MBTI) and individual creativity found that creative people are significantly more intuitive, perceiving, and moderately extroverted.

So extroverts are more creative?

So which is it? According to researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: "If there is one word that makes creative people different from others, it is the word complexity. Instead of being an individual, they are a multitude." Creative people are both introverted and extroverted, but at different times. They need and use the companion of other people to build better ideas, but they also use solitude to let ideas incubate, and the use triggering activities (even dangerous ones) to force combination of those incubated ideas.

Published on: Apr 4, 2016
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