Creativity — 1 !— Quotidian — 397

(Transcript of video originally posted on 4 Jun 2022)

Enthusiasm! Simple word, right? But, if you break it up and take a deeper look, you realise that there is “en” and there is “theos”. That is God! And, “en theos” is “divinely inspired” — as if possessed by a God! Be in ecstasy! Enthusiasm!

That’s how this word was born! Such a common, simple, frequently encountered word, but its beginning..? It starts with a concept where they involve something DIVINE! Something divine that enters your body, possesses your soul, and brings forth a feeling, an emotion, a quality! There is another word like this! Surprising! Common! But, involving something divine! We are going to look at that word TOO, in today’s Quotidian!


Creativity! There are hundreds of definitions for this word! And, I looked around at a few interesting candidates too. One that was truly poignant, even scientific, something that was truly catch-all in its perspective, was this one. This is how it goes:- Creativity is the ability to transcend traditional ways of thinking or acting, and to develop new and original ideas, methods or objects.

Let me underline a few phrases. Transcend traditional… Going off the beaten path, not the one everybody knows, everybody is used to, … Also, it is to develop.. Not to talk about, propose, say… And, to develop what? An idea. A method. An object. Even a process. It looked to me like this definition captured all that Creativity was about.

Creativity — this word itself is a pretty recent one, I came to know. We have seen this N-Gram viewer from Google. How popular a word is… When did it come into circulation… When did it become a really trending word… We have used this N-gram viewer earlier too, in Quotidians.

If you look at the word “Creativity”, nobody has used it till about 1900. Just for the past 100 years or so, it has actually peaked. Before that? What were they saying it was? Whenever something creative happened?

For example, when Newton discovered that there was a Law of Gravity… They used the word “inspired”… If Beethoven gifted an amazing piece of music to the world, they called it “inspirational”. And, this word, “inspiration”, if you look into its etymology, “in” and “spirare”.. God’s own breath.. Drawn into your lungs. As if the breath of God has helped you by getting inside you.. That is the root of the term “I feel inspired”! Like respiration and perspiration, inspiration is about drawing a breath! Only in the past hundred years, we keep encountering the term “Creativity”. Isn’t that interesting?

In Quotidian — 033, more than a year ago, we talked about distracted minds. And, specifically, in that episode, we came to know that to learn about how to avoid distractions, you had to learn about the various networks in the brain are. And, we encountered three networks. I am sure at least some of you remember those three.

One is the Executive Attention network. That is the thing that makes you turn towards the noise that you suddenly hear in the middle of the night. React immediately when something comes at you. Something hot touches you. Because it is constantly waiting for stimuli that could be potentially dangerous.

The second network is the Imagination network. This wakes up only when the Executive Attention network is “at rest”. But, when the Imagination network wakes up, it dreams, it imagines, it thinks, it asks the question “Why not” and “Why”. That is the Imagination network.

And then, there is the third network, which is very important, and that is called the Salience network. The Salience network was introduced in the other Quotidian as the network that forms interesting connections between the Executive and the Imagination networks. But, I read a little more about it. Got a little more clarity. And, learned that these three networks need to resonate if Creativity is to take root. If these work together, like an orchestra, Creativity will grow.

For example, try this one on. A dark night. You are on a dimly lit road. You see something on the ground. Bent. Dark grey. Bent. You wonder for a moment, is this a snake? And then, immediately you chide yourself, and realise that it is a harmless piece of rope. So, that is the Executive Attention network jumping to save you, and then, and then, going back and saying, Sorry-Sorry, I disturbed you.

And then, there is this Imagination network that looks at the same rope. And then starts dreaming about it. What if it were a snake? What if the tail and the head came together? What if a snake could eat its own tail? Ouroboros. Egyptian God of the beginning and the end. Spinning a yarn! Daydreaming! Why? The Imagination network has taken over, the Executive Attention network has gone to sleep. But, this is not enough.

True Creativity will come only when the Salience network also wakes up at the right moment. You saw a rope. You were reminded of a snake. You saw a snake in your mind. You started thinking about it. You went all the way till Ouroboros.

But, that is when you start thinking, hey… what does this resemble? What else looks like this? Carbon.. Four bonds needed. Hydrogen. One bond should do. Benzene.. A chemical compound.. We are looking for its structure. What shape. What structure. We haven’t been able to propose a stable structure for it yet. A snake that bites its own tail… That is what Kekule thought about! Some say he dreamt of it. Some say he thought about it. But, anyway, he saw a connection between the Knowledge he had, Carbon needs four, Hydrogen needs one, combining this Knowledge with the Imagination of the snake eating its own tail, that is what yielded the solution that everybody called Creative.. And the most famous chemical structure of Benzene was discovered. The three networks have to be in symphonic orchestration with each other.

NASA — we all know about this organisation. We have read and heard a lot about the amazing number of genius scientists who work there! When America and Russia were caught in the Space Race, back in the 60s, NASA wanted to get some of the best brains and they engaged George Land,
a scientist. And, he formulated a “Creativity Test” and got the best and the most creative engineers to work at NASA. But, instead of stopping there, NASA management approached him to find out if this can be spotted at a very young age… Can I try to find out who will become creative geniuses when they grow into adults? Can we administer a similar test to children? The professor was up to the challenge and he devised a test that was applicable to children too. And he started administering the test to hundreds of children. These were the results.

When given to five-year-olds, 98 percent passed the test, and called themselves geniuses! But, when the same test was given to the same children a few years later, only 30% passed. Do you see a trend? A few more years later, only 12% passed. And, finally, when they had become real adults, twenty-plus years of age, only 2% passed. It is almost as if we are being told, “What do we learn at school? What does academics teach us? Non-creative behaviour!” That seemed to be the final conclusion. This creativity test that he had devised? It was all about Divergent Activity. There is a problem… How else can this problem take shape and diverge into? That sort of thinking is what I expect in creative people, said George Land.

What is that, really then? That divergent thing is nothing but the brain of the child having a lot more connections.. The child connects everything with everything else.. because, when it is a child, everything is new to it. But, as we grow older, something called synaptic pruning happens… This pruning is basically the removal of unnecessary, unneeded, infrequently used pathways and connections. Even Picasso has quipped:- Every child is an artist. The adult we call an artist then, is just a child who hasn’t forgotten how to draw. So, this pruning is good, but, when you are talking about creativity, if you can manually, artificially, try to look at it divergently, that is a good indicator of your creativity.

There is this family of tasks called Divergent Association Tasks. There are many online tests. If you want to test your creativity, there are actually dozens of tests, readymade, for it. For example, given a pen, how many different uses can you think of? Well, I can use it to write. I can use it (disrespectfully) to throw it at my teacher. I can send it (unsafely!) into my ear! And so on, you can come up with ten different uses.

This Divergent Association Task — I have a URL for you. You can visit — and take that test yourself. This test, a beautiful test, you can finish it in just four minutes. It is about giving ten words. Ten words that are as different from each other as possible. If you mention “cat” and then follow it up with “dog”, sorry, too close! If you mentioned “cat” and mentioned “green” next, you would think they aren’t close, but sorry, cat’s eyes, green! But, if you say “cat” and follow it up with “submarine”, probably, they are far away from each other. This is exactly what the test tries to find out using an algorithm, gives a map, and a score for you! Go ahead and find out how creative you are using this Divergent Association Test!

Let’s meet soon! Oh well, when I say “Let’s meet soon”, I need to add a closing thought! But, today we can’t have a Closing Thought! It is the 4th of June today! The second part has to be done today too! So, we will meet in a short while. Let us have this as an Interval Thought! When we meet next, we are going to talk about the Hare and the Tortoise, and how they are connected to today’s word — Creativity! Thank you!



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