Creativity – Nature or Nurture?


When you are involved with a creative hobby or business, you will often have people tell you that they couldn’t do what you do because they don’t have the ability. We often perceive creativity as an innate skill that we are either born with or not. And while some skills or talents do seem to come from a natural ability, much more are as a result of training, learning and practice. So is creativity due to nature or nurture?


Wiring in the brain

There have been studies conducted on the subject to try and quantify what makes someone more creative than others and results are unsurprisingly varied. For example, writers, artists and musicians were found in some studies have a smaller corpus callosum – this is the fibres that join the two parts of the brain. This allows each side of their brain to develop more specialisation and could lead to a greater innate creativity.

Creativity may even have a genetic basis. A study by the University of Helsinki looked at a person’s musical creativity based on ability to judge pitch and time as well as composition, improvisation and arrangement skills. In their results, they discovered that one cluster of genes seems to correlate with musical creativity and is the same cluster associated with the plasticity of the brain. In other words, its ability to reorganise itself to make and break new connections between cells.


The part of inspiration

Another factor to consider with the question of creativity is that of inspiration. The classic example is that of author Mary Shelley. Back in 1816, she awoke from a vivid dream where she saw a ‘pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together’. Unsurprisingly, this touch of inspiration led to the novel Frankenstein.

But interestingly are the surrounding factors at the time. She was sharing her home with a group who spent time chatting about ghost stories and electrical experiments while also spending time with established authors. And at that particular time, there were intense electrical storms. Shelley had little writing experience before the novel so did inspiration led to creativity or did her surroundings lead to the inspiration that led to the novel?


The argument for nurture

For many people, creativity comes through education, practise and repetition. You learn to paint because you take up the paints every day and work on what you can do. Over time, you get better, you learn what you like and one day you are an artist, exhibiting in a gallery. You may have been born with that artistic ability but without the work and education that goes into it, you would never have become an artist.

On the other hand, if you believe you aren’t creative and because of this, you never try to paint or begin to learn how to work with canvas, then you won’t ever become an artist. Not because you don’t have the ability necessarily, but simply because you have told yourself you aren’t creative and therefore your ability is never developed. Perhaps, deep down, we are all creative if we take steps to find what we can be creative with?


Creative Management

The role of business manager is often seen a very serious one that involves working with hard data, people management and not necessarily a great deal of creativity. But over the last few years, there has been a growing awareness that creativity in its many forms may be as crucial a skill for business managers as data processing, people management or goal setting.


The evolution of creativity

At one time, creativity was seen as something a bit airy – ‘artistic talent’ and such was something you were either born with or weren’t. It stood at the opposite end of the serious nature of being a business manager or entrepreneur and not really playing a part in most types of business even if they were involved in artistic industries.

Yet in a survey in 2010 by IBM that spoke to some 1500 chief executives from 60 countries and 33 industries, creativity was the most important leadership quality for business success, moving ahead of things like global thinking and integrity.


Why creativity matters

Since then, the importance of creativity in business and therefore as a skill for business managers has only continued to grow. Part of this has been an awareness that creativity isn’t just something limited to artistic professions such as authors, artists or musicians – in fact, it is a skill that most people can learn and that opens up the mind to a much wider potential.



Creativity leads to innovation and this is something that all businesses require. If you want to grow, expand, make more profits or widen your customer base, you need to innovate and this requires creativity at all levels of the business. While those who create the innovations need to be creative, so too do their managers to allow them to develop, to prosper and to grasp their ideas.



The aim of the business manager is to make everyone within the business operate at peak productivity and creativity can help with this. To find the best ways to work, the most efficient systems and novel solutions to problems, you need to be creative and to allow everyone around you to think ‘outside the box’. This leads to a sense of accomplishment and a better level of productivity.


Problem solving

Few problems are solved by doing the same thing over and over again – creative thinking is required to find a new solution to the problem. Therefore, managers need to apply this skill and cultivate it in their staff to find the solutions to problems facing the business at all levels.


Born with it?

There’s a perception that creativity is something you are born with but many studies and experiences show this isn’t the case. While some creative skills may be easier for some than others, all of us have some form of creativity, even though we might not recognise it as such. Therefore, by working with the right people, we can nurture this creativity and turn it into a practical skill that can help us develop in the right way for our profession and personal goals.