Here is a taste of Hutch’s columns. If you want more, you can always buy his books.
1. I’d Diet for my Country
2. Creativity and Open-Heart Surgery
3. Immutable Laws of Holidays
4. Futile Bureaucracy
5. P-E-T-E-R
6. From Cradle to Criminal
7. Pestilence and Doom
8. Christmas Cards

Creativity and Open-Heart Surgery

A mate of mine reckons that you don’t want too much creativity in your average heart surgeon. The question arose during a discussion on the relationship between intelligence and creativity.

When it comes to ideas, there are two sorts of people. Intuitives who make up approximately 24% of the general population and non-intuitives who make up the other 76%.

While it is true that all creative people are bright, it is not true that all bright people are creative. There is a body of evidence which suggests that beyond a certain point (like an IQ of 120) higher intelligence has no real bearing on creative powers. In other words you aren’t a creative genius just because you are very clever.

It seems to me that genius is an active rather than a passive thing. You are not a genius just by wandering around being intelligent. To be a genius you have to do something that is both clever and original.

In fact many inventors, scientists and other successful people such as my mate Dave, (who is an investment banker) along with Einstein (an average mathematician by his own admission ) and 80% of the members of the British Royal Society of Scientists, were strictly B to B+ students at university. Their success being due to the fact that they have creative rather than linear minds, which raises the question of what creativity means.

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, the discoverer of Vitamin C said, “Creativity is seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought.”

This is where the observation on cardiology popped into Dave’s brain; and out of his mouth. He quite frequently utters words then recognises his own voice afterwards, which gets him into a fair bit of social strife. But he is improving, especially since Gary Flavell took a swing at him when Dave foolishly observed that you could hardly tell that Gary was wearing a toupee, except up close.

But I digress.

We were in a meeting at the advertising agency at the time.

Dave’s view is that the massive intelligence displayed by such guys at school was directed at assimilating and storing information so that it could be recalled sequentially, not in the totally random manner of your average advertising copywriter.

Of course when you are under the knife, you desperately want the knife you are under to be wielded by a boring ex-geek who was paying attention in Biology. Not by someone who was at the beach chatting up Gaye Ashton on the day they were dissecting frogs and who is now wanting to be adventurous with your cardiovascular system.

I believe that most people play fast and loose with the meaning and nature of creativity.

The trouble is that creativity has become very fashionable. Everyone wants to be regarded as “creative”.

To concede that you aren’t is like admitting that you are a dull, boring, one-dimensional person and that life with you would have all the excitement of being locked in a sauna with a time-share salesman.

So everybody heads off to seminars, reads books or studies creativity, thinking that it is a process that can be learned and that the resulting certificate they receive is a qualification rather than a permit. It shouldn’t even be a permit. It should be a restraining order, preventing anyone who wasn’t born that way from claiming to be creative.

There is no doubt that creative skills can be honed and polished, but the core talent has to pre-exist the polishing. I mean, you don’t have people going around saying they are builders just because they’ve put up some picture-hooks, or electricians because they’ve changed a light bulb.

To claim that creativity can be taught is to demean it. Creativity is a relative term and all creative activities reside somewhere on a continuum that ranges from making toast and jam, through painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling, to discovering gravity.

To describe all those activities with the same word is to insult Michelangelo and Isaac Newton. For some, the most creative thing they do is get dressed in the morning and even then they get the assembly instructions from pictures in fashion magazines.

To delude people into thinking that they can learn it, is to send them armed with false expectations out into an unsuspecting world. People should rejoice at being electricians or ophthalmologists. They’ll probably make more money.

Creativity defies accurate description, but a definition that comes close is “making the familiar strange and the strange familiar.” When we do that we create memorable images and are able to weave compelling stories.

There are two sorts of things in life; real stuff and made up stuff. Real stuff is stuff like electrical wiring and the fact that the aorta extends up from the left ventricle and should under no circumstances be attached to any other part of the body. People with linear minds know this. Made up stuff is stuff like the Sistine Chapel ceiling, “Citizen Kane” and “Catch 22” (The greatest book in the English language, in my view. Much more accessible to than James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”) Truly creative people with lateral minds know how to make these ideas and images work, be they painted on ceilings, printed on paper or projected on screen.

That’s the thing - having a medical degree qualifies you to be a doctor, having an accounting degree qualifies you to be an accountant and so on. But having a degree in English literature only qualifies you to be a reader, not a writer.

Unless words are strung together in an unusual way, are delightfully lyrical or simply make you see things from a different perspective, you might as well read the Phone Book.

How the creative process works no one really knows. But it is mostly about absorbing lots of information and images and letting them ferment in your subconscious mind. Then the ideas pop out by themselves as if from nowhere, usually when you are in a lift or on the motorway or eating your ravioli. Pretty much anytime you haven’t got a pen handy.

Creativity is not a process you can learn from a text book, any more than being able to hit a ball with a 5 iron makes you qualified for the US Open.

The Magazine Awards

Business Columnist of the Year 2012

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