Certitude – The Creativity Killer


Mindset may be the best determinate of one’s level of creativity. Creative people tend to be curious. They question their surroundings and seek out new things. While those with a strong conviction toward having all the right answers don’t.

This can be related to relative knowledge, or perception of relative knowledge. I often see people who are less informed on a topic being more certain they know everything about it. And as they learn more, they learn that there is much more to be learned. Teachers regularly witness this phenomenon in students. When students are freshmen, they are less inclined to question their opinions. As they advance, and learn more, they become more aware of the vast number of approaches to any given task. Thus, they are less obstinate about being right and more inclined to conduct research to confirm their opinions. The philosopher Dylan once said, “Ah, but I was so much older then/I’m younger than that now.” That sums it up.

In his essay, “The Psychology of Curiosity: A Review and Reinterpretation,” George Loewenstein states how knowing one doesn’t know something increases their level of curiosity. Those who think they know everything aren’t compelled to learn more. But those who know they don’t know, especially those who are aware they kind-of-know, feel compelled to seek more related information.

To ensure that we maintain a curious mindset, we should constantly be learning more stuff. Through learning, we find how entropy works. The more we know, the more we know we don’t know. And we become more aware the universe is a very complex thing. This means there is always something new to learn. Any topic is complex when looked at from a variety directions. And several viewpoints may be correct all at the same time. From this, any one problem can have many solutions that are equally viable.

To further embrace curiosity as a means to creativity, we should embrace process as a means to a better outcome, even when we know we have the right answer. The more time we spend researching, brainstorming and reflecting, the better our ideas become. And from these better ideas, the better our solutions will be. How do you know you have a good idea? It’s when you have a lot of others to compare it to. There’s no magic number on how long one should spend on ideation, but the more one works on a problem, the more one knows the complexities related to it.

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