We have this idea in our minds that only the select few among us are "creative" enough to develop meaningful and interesting ideas. We like to say things like "there are right-brain thinkers, and there are left-brain thinkers" that suggest creativity is relegated to one class of people, while logic is relegated to the other. I hear it all of the time from people in my accounting classes: "I don't have a creative bone in my body. I'm a lot more of a logical thinker, and that's why accounting is a good choice for me."

But you've heard the term "creative accounting", right? You know, with companies like Enron and scam artists like Madoff cooking the books to make profitless ventures look like they were flying high? So if it's true that accountants are logical thinkers that "don't have a creative bone in their bodies"; how did they use "creative accounting" to fool the SEC and dupe investors out of billions of dollars? I'm not suggesting that everyone is "creative" enough to become the next Picasso (actually, I just don't know enough about creativity on a scientific level to make that call); what I am suggesting is that most of us are probably more creative than we give ourselves credit for.

The point of this article isn't to convince you to quit your accounting job to figure out how to revitalize cubist art. And this article isn't written for the famous author or the next Jackson Pollack. It's written for the "rest of us". It's to encourage you to challenge assumptions you make that hold you back from expressing your creative side, and using it for gain.

The first thing we have to do is understand what creativity actually is. Creativity, as populalry defined, means people who think only in abstract, surreal terms, and as a result are able to miraculously forge great pieces of art and works of literature from the deep and tortured caverns of their own mind. In other words, creative people are God: they create beauty where there was before, nothing.

I'm sure there's some people like that. But that's not a very useful definition of creativity that benefits the rest of us. I would define creativity as:

The ability to conceive of and create value in ways not fully accounted for in existing paradigms and methods by making unique and new associations between different concepts and ideas.

Notice this definition doesn't contain notions of grandiloquence and surreal marvel. It doesn't mean you have to become the next Monet. Most importantly, it doesn't contain the classical notions of creativity as a process that inherently is devoid of logic. In fact, it connotes an extremely logical way to approach creativity: stringing together disparate ideas in a new, novel and useful way.

So can it be said that creativity is actually extremely logical? I think so. If it's true that creativity is logical, it must stand that creativity can be learned as well!

An example of this definition of creativity is the ideas in my blog. Since this is a written work, it would fall under the traditional auspices of a "creative" work. So according to the traditional definition of creativity, all of the ideas I have are just things that I came up with through an abstract and inscrutable process. The words I use, the ideas I propose: all just the works of a creative genius who cannot possibly be understood . Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, I thought logically about each idea that I have written here. They did not come from an abstract, inscrutable process. I analyzed the actions of others and myself with an attempt to understand the cost, benefits and efficacy of any given path. I analyzed my observations at an aggregate level, and drew associative conclusions, crthinking things such as "This worked for person X in these scenarios, and did not work in those scenarios. Person Y had success with his philosophy in these ways. By associating these results, I can see that a combination of certain attributes of both ideas would allow for the best result to be achieved in most scenarios."

In terms of the particular way I write things: that comes not from creativity, but from being well read (I like to read and I enjoy vocabulary). Since I know a relatively large number of words, I can select words that more accurately express my ideas, rather than relying on generic words that connote only a vague meaning.

I think I convinced you that creativity is not what most people think it is. But I haven't addressed why this actually matters. Why should you care about creativity?

Create more opportunities for yourself.
One thing I hear, constantly, from would-be entrepreneurs is that they want to start a business, but don't have a business idea. I will address the idea of Developing business ideas in a separate article. The point here is that, if you are better able to conceive of creative ideas, you can begin to see creative opportunities for yourself.

Better at seeing between the lines, and the ability to create new lines.
We've all heard of companies like Facebook that radically redefine the way that something (like social interaction) is done. What gets less press--but is equally important--are the companies that radically redefine something small or less noticeable. Companies such as Quixey re-defined the way that we can search for apps for our iPhone and Droid. It's not as if they invented the app or the iPhone: they just reinvented the way that we find the apps in the first place. Thinking ideas like "wouldn't it be great if our cell phone didn't weigh 10 pounds, and you could have added functionality?" is easy. Thinking something like "is there a way to increase overall efficacy in one specific iPhone-related function?" is much harder to discern. By actively engaging in creativity, you leave yourself open to noticing smaller--albeit important--opportunities that will help you accomplish your goals and achieve success.

Reduced dependence on assumptions and norms imposed by others.

No creativity inherently means existing within the structures designed by others. If you can't create something better, aren't you required to keep using what someone else created? This manifests itself in many people's careers: they continue to work in a job they don't like, but "can't think of something better to do", and as such continue to be miserable.

If you feel free to remove those assumptions and develop something of your own accord, you can mold your environment and derive a way to spend your time the way you want to.

So if creativity can be learned, how can we learn it?

The bedrock of creativity is knowledge.

The more you know about something, the more creative you can be. Think about the example of "creative accounting". Accountants can develop creative and illegal "solutions" to a company's financial woes because they understand IFRS and GAAP and SEC reporting like the back of their hands. Imagine asking Monet to engineer the same outcome. Of course, that would never work, because Monet doesn't know anything about accounting.

I used to doubt my own creativity (I thought along the lines of "I don't have a creative bone in my body" at one point). I mentioned this to one of my good friends, and he said (in a rather surprised tone): "Didn't you tell me that you introduced a 20 page proposal at the last student government meeting to implement and entirely new and complicated disciplinary process?" It was true, I had. We talked longer, and I realized: when it came to student government bylaws, I was as creative as they come. This stemmed from my extensive experience and interest in student government and law.

So that means this: we are creative at what we know. Things that we are not creative with most likely stems from a lack of knowledge or expertise in that area.

Establish a pro-creativity mindset.

One thing that will stamp out creativity is believing that you are not. I'm not trying to "make you feel good about yourself" per se; my point is a very practical one. If you don't believe you are creative, or make no effort to be as such, you probably will, in fact, have few moments of creativity in your life. But the result isn't because of an inherent lack of creativity: it's just your refusal to act creative in the first place.

So I recommend developing a pro-creativity mindset. For fun, try to be creative; but do it in ways that are related to your life and the problems you face. Just try to come up with a novel solution to a problem you face. Since the bedrock of creativity is knowledge, go learn about areas that you want to increase your creativity in. For example, if you want to write a book, go learn more about writing, and read others' works with a particular interest in understanding how the written word should be used effectively.

If my personal experience is a barometer of others' experience, simply trying to be creative builds your confidence, and opens you to more opportunities. This was my progression when I used to believe I was unable to think of any good business ideas. Now, I believe that I can come up with great business ideas: it's just relative to what I know.

Implied in what I write here is making creativity a habit, rather than an ad-hoc effort which I viciously campaign against in every respect in almost every article that I write. Please don't think that fair-weather attempts to change your deepest-held predispositions about yourself will actually be helpful. I think of my efforts to write this blog, and the times I have wondered "I think what I'm writing isn't well phrased. I wonder if I should just give up". I'm glad I didn't, and through practice, I have been able to increase my effectiveness at writing. The same will happen with you.

So please remember: creativity is logical! It's an excellent mindset and disposition to have if you are sincere about seeking unique opportunities and creating meaningful change in the world. If you change your mindset and predispositions, you will see the creativity already within you, and see how to use it to accomplish your goals.

Please see my blog www.rcsays.com for more articles on personal development and improvement.

Author's Bio: 

R.C. Thornton teaches mastering concepts and ideas that are adoptable to specific situations as the proper way to success and personal fulfillment, and writes extensively at his blog, www.rcsays.com