The Reality of a Creative Mind

Originality is not a requirement for creativity.


  • We often make the mistake of assuming that creative ideas are always original ideas.
  • Creativity is, quite often, a combination of two “old” ideas.
  • One’s creativity can be enhanced by linking two or more disparate concepts.

One of the most persistent myths is that a creative idea is a totally original idea. That is, to be creative one must be able to create ideas that have never been thought before, ideas that never existed before, absolutely original.

The truth is that most innovative ideas are not original ideas. In most cases, they are simply the combination of previous ideas into a new concept or format. It’s about making connections with stuff that’s already there. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, brought this all into perspective when he said:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they really didn’t do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after awhile. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or that they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

One of the most-oft cited cases of creativity centers around Johannes Gutenberg who, in 1450, combined the wine press and the coin punch to create movable type and the printing press. Movable metal pieces allowed pages to be printed much more quickly than the standard wooden blocks used to press ink onto paper. His “combination of pre-existing technologies” created printing presses that could print thousands of pages a day. This revolution allowed books to be printed more quickly and more efficiently, allowing the middle class to obtain them as never before. The result was the rapid spread of knowledge across the European continent. That intellectual revolution came about due, in large measure, to the combination of two previous (and seemingly unconnected) ideas: a wine press and a coin punch.

Creative Combinations

Ancient Greeks were also aware of the power of creative combinations. For example, it was the Greeks who combined soft copper with soft tin to create hard bronze. At their most basic levels, Gutenberg’s printing press and the creation of bronze were simply a combination of already existing ideas. History also records these interesting combinations of pre-existing concepts:

1. Copier + telephone = fax machine

2. Bell + clock = alarm clock

3. Trolley + suitcase = suitcase with wheels.

4. Igloo + hotel = ice palace

5. Mathematics + biology = laws of heredity

We like to believe that creativity is the result of a determined, focused, and solo entrepreneur who, through a flash of inspiration solves a problem for the betterment of humankind. It’s a great plot line for a TV special, but it ignores a basic fact of life about the stories of most innovations: They rarely include the human networks that sustain (and make possible) radical new ideas or changes. In fact, history is frequently edited in order to recognize a sole genius or innovator. Phil McKinney, host of the nationally syndicated radio show, Killer Innovations, puts it this way:

We have a saying in the innovation industry: “There’s no such thing as a truly new idea. Ideas are the result of building on the work of others.” Many of the creative ideas that led to creating great companies were the result of a team. Some examples: Microsoft, Intel, Google, Skype and many more.

We continue to think that to be creative is to have the ability to create new ideas rather than to combine old ideas into new configurations. It’s a persistent myth that frequently blocks us whenever we’re faced with a personal challenge or work-related endeavor. To the contrary, however, creativity is not always a series of “brilliant new ideas,” but often is the result of a lifetime of experiences and diligence in working on combinations of those ideas (instead of giving up on them after one or two failures). The myth that every idea must be an idea never considered before (in the history of humankind) is a significant impediment to our ability to think creatively.


The Intelligence Trap: Being Smart Can Be a Liability

Why hiring the smartest person may be the wrong decision.


  • Individuals with higher IQs are less likely to thrive in a highly structured company environment.
  • Smarter people may view socializing as tedious, awkward, and anxiety provoking.
  • Perceptions of vast personal intelligence are positively related to counterproductive work habits.
  • Irrational perfectionism can derail the efficiency of gifted individuals.

Across cultures, high intelligence is a desirable quality. Smarter people are more prosperous (Daniele, 2013), healthier (Wraw, et al., 2018), and report greater life satisfaction (Gonzalez-Mulé, 2017). While what constitutes intelligence is debated and culturally nuanced, researchers typically agree that intelligence includes at least three components. The first factor is crystallized knowledge, which consists of facts and information, otherwise known as what we learn in school or through experience. Second, fluid intelligence, which is unrelated to experience, is the ability to process information through knowledge application, reasoning, and solving problems efficiently. Third, many researchers include self-control and the management of emotions as constituting intelligence. Superior performance in these three categories usually means you are considered smart, but elevated performance also means that you are prone to some substantial liabilities.

The factors described below are some of the areas where being smart may backfire. What causes performance deficits and which factors influence the relationship between intelligence and certain outcomes may be two different things. For example, it is suggested that smarter people swear more (Washmuth & Stephens, 2022), but surely blurting out a cavalcade of curse words will not increase your IQ. Given this understanding between cause and correlation, we can confidently predict that people with advanced intelligence will score poorly on the following dimensions and behaviors.


Individuals with elevated levels of conscientiousness tend to be precise, persistent, tidy, punctual, methodical, and hardworking (Moutafi et al., 2004). They pride themselves on consistent performance, metaphorically coloring within the lines, and reaching personal goals. Surprisingly, smarter people are usually less conscientious. When the going gets tough the smartest people rely on their intelligence alone to get through challenging situations. Conversely, those with lower IQ scores rely on rule abidance and meeting expectations as a coping strategy to navigate life’s difficult circumstances. More intelligent folks can be successful despite being less structured, comparatively unorganized, and more carefree. Ironically, there is a higher concentration of conscientious people in the field of education, where we would expect intelligence to be paramount. Additionally, more conscientious folks are early risers, presumably because when the conscientious get up early they have more time to get things done (Gorgol et al., 2020)


One of the most widely accepted personality measures is where we fit on the continuum between introversion and extroversion. Introverted individuals generally draw energy from solitude and like to think things through before acting. In contrast, extroverts are empowered by the outside world and socializing serves as their catalyst for action. While study results are mixed, generally introverted individuals have higher levels of fluid and crystallized intelligence. In one study investigating work performance (Furnham et al., 2004), introverted managers scored significantly higher on intelligence tests than their extroverted peers. The consensus explanation is that extroverts gain more traction and achieve success by relying on a verbal ability that makes socialization a low anxiety and rewarding process. In turn, introverts are less outgoing because they rely on their smarts to be successful. Not surprisingly, as individuals mature (and have fewer friends and family) they become more introverted.

Counterproductive work behaviors

Most intelligent people believe they are highly competent and as such have plenty of positive self-esteem. In turn, these individuals feel they are highly desirable to employers because of their unique abilities and qualifications. Sadly, high intelligence perceptions may be damaging, breeding contempt towards employers when the employee feels that the organization does not recognize their advanced intellect and extraordinary potential. The disconnect between personal and company impressions leads smart folks to believe they are overqualified (Liu et al., 2015). When perceptions of overqualification fester, individuals become less productive at work and more prone to devious behaviors and distractibility due to feeling slighted by their employers. What does it mean? Employers should do everything possible to listen to employee perceptions and when recruiting test for individual self-perceptions. The smartest may not always be the best fit.

Irrational perfectionism

Many of us strive to have exceptional work performance, which is normally a good thing for both companies and individuals. Unfortunately, the excellence goal gets out of hand when the individual exhibits perfectionist concerns that dictate a constant and rigid demand of the self to be perfect under every possible circumstance (Stoeber & Otto, 2006), a description that closely parallels the definition of a gifted individual. To make matters worse, individuals with an inordinate perfection focus often have huge self-doubt, fear mistakes, and experience highly negative emotions (like depression) when things don’t go as planned. There is however a silver lining; the traits of self-control and self-management that can mediate perfectionist concerns are no less frequent in gifted individuals than in their lower-achieving peers (Stricker et al., 2020). Perfection is not a core quality of the gifted when it is accompanied by the less lethal belief that perfectionism is a goal and not an unwavering necessity.

The smart advantage

Is there hope for the highly qualified and exceptionally intelligent person at work? Of course, there is. Being smart has decisive advantages in the workplace. Those who score higher on measures of IQ and emotional intelligence have a better ability to delay gratification, have less performance anxiety, and develop a better sense of humor than their lower-scoring peers. Smarter folks tend to share more (think teamwork) and will lend a hand when another person needs help. The bottom line: An organization should test for the qualities and traits that align most closely with its organizational philosophy. Over-reliance on perceptions of intelligence and experience may often be a hiring mistake that the organization will soon regret.


About High Range IQ Test

The high range IQ test was developed experimentally to measure IQ in the very high range. The official IQ tests, such as the Wechsler and Stanford-Binet, limit the measurement range of adult IQ to approximately IQ 160. (SD15). However, human intelligence can be calculated statistically theoretically up to roughly IQ 195 (SD15) or higher. High range IQ tests have been developed as a result of this statistical reason. The high range IQ test is divided into three categories: verbal, numerical, and spatial. According to the high range IQ test, an individual may have high intelligence in one or more categories.

The standardization method of these tests is where these tests can be evaluated as having a strong experimental tendency. When these tests are standardized, obtaining sufficient data is difficult because the statistical range of the measurement range is extremely rare. Scores based on the preliminary norm are also subject to such skepticism. Even so, it is difficult to argue that the reliability and validity of high range IQ tests are not guaranteed, given that people who perform well on these tests also perform well on the official IQ tests.

Based on these high range IQ tests, GIGA Society assesses humans’ extremely high intelligence up to IQ 190 (SD15). One of the GIGA Society’s missions is to find excellent high range IQ tests. This mission is currently overseen by a council of three members.


4 categories of pseudoscience — and how to talk to people who believe in them


  • Trying to define pseudoscience is difficult. There is no one thing that makes something “pseudo.” 
  • Historian of science Dr. Michael Gordin suggests that “pseudoscience is science’s shadow.” 
  • People invested in pseudoscience often think they are doing real science, and approaching them with that understanding can make speaking to them much easier.

Despite increasing levels of technology and scientific literacy, it seems as if pseudoscience is more insane and pervasive than ever. But if these ideas are so clearly mistaken, why is it that so many people get sucked into them? Why do some pseudosciences, like flat Earth theory, even have conventions where people do what they think is science?

In an essay on pseudoscience, historian of science Dr. Michael Gordin argues that we often think about the divide between real science and pseudoscience incorrectly. By looking at pseudosciences in how they relate to real science, we can get a better understanding of what they are and how to deal with them.

What defines science, anyway?

The question of what defines a claim as scientific is known to philosophy as the demarcation problem. While many great minds have attempted to draw a clear line between the scientific and the unscientific, the results of their efforts have been mixed.

The most commonly cited demarcation line is Karl Popper’s idea of falsifiability. According to Popper, for a hypothesis to be scientific, it must be falsifiable. An idea like Einstein’s theory of relativity makes clear predictions that can be tested, such as whether the sun bends light passing near it. This makes it scientific. On the other hand, Popper suggested that some theories, like the Marxist theory of history or Freudian psychoanalysis, were unfalsifiable, and therefore unscientific.

While this line is the most commonly used, it has problems. An idea might be falsifiable, but sometimes it is difficult to tell which idea an experiment falsifies. At the same time, the idea that Bigfoot exists is technically falsifiable, but few would consider searching for Sasquatch to be a worthwhile scientific endeavor.

Another concept, previously quite popular and still referenced in some circles, is that of the paradigm shift, as described by Thomas Kuhn. Kuhn puts the line between science and non-science in terms of paradigms — bundles of ideas that are widely accepted among scientists.

Ideas that align with paradigms can be considered science, while those that do not are considered something else. Revolutions in science occur when problems with the dominant paradigm became too large to ignore, and a new one comes to prominence. He also noted that people in certain pseudosciences, like astrology or medieval medicine, weren’t actually doing research and therefore weren’t practicing science at all.

The idea of paradigms as the demarcation lines can explain some aspects of science, but it doesn’t entirely explain how shifts to new ideas occur. Importantly, while it can identify what pseudoscience is, it tends to the relativistic; what is inside or outside the paradigm can be determined by irrelevant factors.

Dr. Gordin suggests that the problem with these ideas and others like them is their reliance on one demarcation line. As he puts it:

“Any attempt to build a taxonomy of the many doctrines that have been labeled as ‘pseudoscientific’ reveals the impossibility of an internally consistent single definition of fringe science.” 

Instead, he suggests that “pseudoscience is science’s shadow. Specifically, it is the shadow of professional science, and just as a shadow cannot exist without the object casting it, so does every object necessarily cast shadows.”

These shadows, and there is more than one, can be treated as overlapping, but with certain tendencies that allow us to categorize them.

The multiple shadows of science

Dr. Gordin warns these groups are not all-inclusive, but they do cover many pseudoscientific topics. Each is motivated by different factors, has different sorts of ideas inside of it, and has to be dealt with in different ways.

First, he identifies the vestigial sciences. He describes these as:

“…systems of thought that used to be considered sciences but that professional scientists have, over time, either gradually moved away from or actively excluded. The most well‐known are astrology and alchemy, which during the Renaissance were largely synonymous with what would become by the end of the Enlightenment’ astronomy’ and ‘chemistry’.”

Many of these were once considered true sciences and some even continue to have large numbers of supporters carrying out work that looks a fair bit like real science.

Next, he identifies the ideological fringes. These are the ideas that are “distortions of rational thinking in the service of a political ideology.” Famous examples include Nazi Deutsche Physik, Stalinist Michurinism, and the increasingly tortured arguments against climate science we see today.

After that is the mentalist fringe. Defined as focusing on “allegedly unrecognized or under-appreciated powers of mind,” this group includes a wide range of pseudoscience, from ESP to spiritualism. Importantly, this group overlaps with the vestigial group, as many ideas here were once considered scientific before better ideas came along.

Lastly, Dr. Gordin defines the controversy fringe. Categorized by “cases in which potentially path‐breaking work is published within the bounds of a science and is greeted with intense skepticism and debate, typically aired across the pages of professional journals,” items in this group can either become accepted, as was the case for quantum mechanics a century ago, or rejected and sent back to the fringe, as is the case for anybody who claims cold fusion has been invented yet.

So, according to this conception, something like astrology fits neatly into one category, while something like dialectic materialism — the Marxist theory of history — could fit within two: vestigial and ideological. Something like the search for Atlantis, the existence of which is a falsifiable hypothesis, would likely rest in the controversy group.

How do we deal with pseudoscience if we can’t easily pinpoint what it is?

One of the biggest takeaways of this is that pseudoscience isn’t one thing; it will change over time. As such we will never be rid of it; anything with a center has a fringe, and science is no different.

Dr. Gordin suggests that, in certain ways, each category is critiquing mainstream science. Addressing those critiques can go a long way in keeping the lid on ideas that would otherwise spread far and wide.

For example, looking at a few of the points that pseudosciences seem to consistently raise, including that real science tends toward “abstruse jargon, excessive mathematization, and an impression that science is cliquish and resists engagement with outsiders,” and taking a moment to address them may help some people on the fringes find their way back to the center.

Dr. Gordin points out that many people know about the work of science, but not how it is done.

“Demystifying those aspects of science that are stamps of its being professional, rather than reiterating oversimplified versions of revisable knowledge claims, would at the very least educate neutral parties more about the daily practices of science, and provide a point of collaboration between the sciences and those social scientists—anthropologists, historians, and sociologists—who have made great strides in elucidating precisely these features of scientists’ work.”

Few people think they are conducting or subscribing to pseudoscience, Dr. Gordin argues.

“… it is a significant point for reflection that all individuals who have been called “pseudoscientists” have considered themselves to be “scientists”, with no prefix.”

Many fields that seem rather absurd have journals with a form of peer review. It is possible to get certification in alternative medicines that don’t do much at all. An entire subculture once existed around the idea that all ancient religions were based on an improbable planetary event between Venus, Earth, and Jupiter.

These claims make much more sense when you consider that the people on the fringes of science think they are doing the same thing as those in the center. Addressing the issues that pushed people away form the center is a reasonable approach if this is correct: You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Dr. Gordin specifically rejects “belittling” advocates of pseudosciences, which he accuses Richard Feynman of having done, in favor of finding ways that the mainstream might better address the issues that drove people to the fringes in the first place.

For example, compare the sentiments behind “I have a degree, so trust me” and “this topic is very complex, so understanding takes at least four years of training.” When dealing with somebody who has concerns about credentialism as a barrier to science, this latter approach will likely be more effective in helping advocates of pseudoscience to treat mainstream science as trustworthy rather than just a meritless hierarchy.

Pseudoscience has been around since the rise of modern science and is likely to endure in some form. While there is no metaphysical notion of “pseudoscienceness” that we can point to and weed out of society, Dr. Gordin suggests that we can come to understand what areas nonsense tends to collect in, what draws people to it, and how to talk to them once they develop a taste for it.


A Science-Based Guide to How to Act Wisely

A new study describes the structure of the integrative wisdom model.


  • Wisdom refers to sound judgment and/or action when dealing with difficult life situations.
  • A new model of wisdom suggests that three motivational and emotional factors moderate the effects of cognitive factors on wise behavior.
  • The three emotional and motivational components of the model are exploratory orientation, concern for others, and emotion regulation.

Wisdom is often described as a virtue, a valuable resource, or a desirable goal—in short, a good thing.

But what is wisdom? Common definitions of wisdom tend to describe it as: A deep understanding of existence, great insight into one’s own life, sound judgment, the ability to use experiences to grow, willingness and skill to take another person’s perspective, concern and compassion for all people, etc.

How can we put all these elements together?

That is what a recent paper by Glück and Weststrate has done. They have presented an integrative model of wise behavior. Published in Personality and Social Psychology Review, the main proposition of the model, which we shall discuss, is this:

“In challenging real-life situations, noncognitive wisdom components (an exploratory orientation, concern for others, and emotion regulation) moderate the effect of cognitive components (knowledge, metacognitive capacities, and self-reflection) on wise behavior.”

This is a lot to take in, so let us begin with a basic question: When do we need to behave wisely?

When we or people close to us are faced with a hard life decision, moral dilemma, or long-term problem.

Another important question: What characterizes wise behavior?

Wise behavior tends to…

  1. Resolve short-term or long-term issues (e.g., coping with a life-threatening illness).
  2. Provide support or contribute to a greater good (e.g., offering valuable guidance to family and friends).
  3. Do the right thing (e.g., behaving ethically at work, even if it means making less money).

How does wisdom help us achieve the above goals? Using three mechanisms. By allowing us to…

  1. Gain an objective understanding of the situation. The first thing wise individuals do when faced with a new challenge is to speak with a lot of people and collect information about the facts of the problem and its emotional and social aspects. More importantly, when speaking with others, they remain calm, respectful, and sympathetic.
  2. Discover solutions or ways of reaching solutions that maximize common interests. Wise individuals try to balance everyone’s concerns. If they happen to have a stake in the outcome, they take a step back to identify their biases and reduce the likelihood of giving self-serving advice.
  3. Suggest or implement the best solution. Wise individuals do not usually tell people what to do, but they do use their skills and experience to offer guidance and provide support. For instance, they offer encouragement in situations where finding the best solution necessitates trying out different paths, and thus requires patience and hope.

The integrative wisdom model

The authors’ proposed model of wisdom is depicted in Figure 1.

Arash Emamzadeh (Glück & Weststrate, 2022)
Source: Arash Emamzadeh (Glück & Weststrate, 2022)

On the left side (Rectangle 1), we have a “wisdom-requiring situation.” This is typically an emotionally challenging and cognitively complex real-life situation (e.g., a diagnosis of a chronic illness), which gives rise to an emotional/motivational state.

This motivational state is affected by three characteristics of the individual (the three ellipses at the bottom left):

  • Exploratory orientation: The wise love knowledge, are open-minded and curious about life, and use experiences to grow. For example, they do not feel threatened by perspectives that differ from their own but consider them interesting and informative.
  • Concern for others: The wise understand others’ emotions and care about their happiness/well-being. To illustrate, think of the likes of Gandhi, Mandela, or MLK, whose concern and care were not reserved for the selected few close friends or relatives but for the whole of humanity. Indeed, fairness, ethicality, empathic concern, and compassion are key components of wisdom.
  • Emotion-regulation ability: The wise can regulate their feelings (i.e. recognize, understand, and modify their emotional experience) and the emotions of others, even in very challenging situations. These enlightened individuals (e.g., the Dalai Lama) know how to use different strategies, such as reappraisal or humor, to reduce negative emotions (e.g., fearanger).

A person who has high levels of the three characteristics described above is more likely to maintain an open mind, remain calm, show care and compassion, and behave ethically (Rectangle 2). In comparison, the average person facing a challenging situation is more prone to get upset, look at a problem from one angle only, and behave selfishly.

People’s motivational and emotional states impact how much they make use of their cognitive capacities (see the three ellipses on the top right side of Figure 1):

  • Wisdom-related knowledge: Having knowledge about life and oneself (e.g., one’s needs, strengths, weaknesses, biases). This knowledge is not always conscious but may involve practical intelligence and expertise.
  • Metacognitive abilities: One, being aware and able to consider different views, interests, values, and goals in an open-minded way. Two, being humble. This humility comes from the awareness of the limits of what we can know about life and our power to control or predict it.
  • Self-reflection: Having the capacity to reflect on our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. And to learn from mistakes, with the goal of identifying biases, preferences, and blind spots, so that biases do not influence our judgment.

As noted earlier, the right emotional and motivation states (Rectangle 2) are important because not everyone who has the cognitive capacity required for wisdom feels motivated to use it.

But the wise feel motivated to make full use of their cognitive abilities. Therefore, they often find a solution that satisfies everyone’s needs and optimizes the greater good (Rectangle 3), and act wisely (Rectangle 4).


In summary, the Integrative Wisdom Model proposes the following:

In challenging situations, the “noncognitive trait components of wisdom (exploratory orientation, concern for others, and emotion regulation) enable individuals to remain in an open-minded, caring, and calm mindset.”

As a result, these individuals are “able to access and utilize their cognitive wisdom resources—broad and deep knowledge about life and themselves, metacognitive awareness of the limitations of knowledge and the relativity of perspectives, and self-reflection to reason and behave wisely in challenging situations.”