Creative Versus Conceptual Intelligence
Last Time: How To Create Anything
What we are talking about here is activating our creative intelligence: owning it, deepening it, expanding it. So what is it?
In 1983, development psychologist Howard Gardner wrote a groundbreaking book called Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, in which he suggested that what school and society call “intelligence” – the intellectual, the analytical, the conceptual — is only one aspect of how humans think and learn.
Gardner suggested a whole raft of alternative intelligences including spatial, linguistic and interpersonal but he overlooked the creative. Building on his work, Robert Sternberg, the American psychologist and psychometrician, along with others criticised Gardner for this oversight and also for using the word “intelligence” inappropriately, in relation to nature, for example, or music, where more suitable words would be “ability” or “aptitude”.
Sternberg has categorized intelligence into three types: analytical, practical and creative. Others posit four or more and there have been lots of definitions of creative intelligence, most recently by Harvard’s Bruce Nussbaum, as the power to “Create, Connect, and Inspire”.
However we categorise the human ability to know and learn, it’s clear that the type of intelligence privileged by school and education systems since their inception alongside the Industrial Revolution, the analytical, conceptual intelligence essential to sorting, ordering and figuring out, which can be (to some degree) measured by IQ, is no longer enough.
This sort of learning trained us for efficiency and knowledge retention, the highest values in the industrial (19th century) and information (20th century) economies. Now, as we move into the more fluid and flexible creative (21st century) economy, intelligence values are changing. We will always need to know how to order, rank and figure things out but all the knowledge and information in the world is now available to anybody with an Internet connection. What we most need and value now is the ability to generate ideas, spot new connections, initiate and innovate.
And we are also realising our minds are capable of much more than we have traditionally allowed.
By contrasting conceptual and creative intelligences, we can see clearly that each is a form of different types of knowledge, operating through different modes of learning.
• Conceptual intelligence communicates through thoughts, concepts, opinions and ideas. Creative intelligence communicates through feelings, emotions, insights and intuitions.
• Conceptual intelligence reasons and critiques; creative intelligence observes and explores.
• Conceptual intelligence aims to control; creative intelligence to allow.
• Conceptual intelligence categorises; creative intelligence “breaks the box”.
• Conceptual intelligence looks out, seeing human reality as material and fixed Creative intelligence looks in, seeing human reality as imagined and co-created.
• Conceptual intelligence persuades through intellectual opinion and argument. Creative intelligence persuades through story, symbol and song.
• Conceptual intelligence likes answers; creative intelligence likes questions.
• Conceptual intelligence sees failure as a disappointment and a defeat. Creative intelligence sees failure as necessary and a learning opportunity.
• Conceptual intelligence consumes art, writing and music as entertainment. Creative intelligence creates art, writing and music as expression.
Contrasting conceptual and creative intelligences like this is, though, like setting your right foot against your left. They are designed to work together. Privileging one over the other is like asking you to walk with one foot tied behind your back. It also leaves swathes of people thinking they are either uncreative or unintelligent or both.
As Albert Einstein said, “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking it is stupid.”
Understanding, owning and honing your creative intelligence opens you to the world, and the world to you, in a whole new way. You come to recognise the relationship with your own creative process as the primary relationship in your life, the one that defines all the others. You learn to observe and express the truth of your unique character and experience. You accept challenging relationships and events in your life, letting them teach you what you need to know. You become confident of your ability to create what you want and hone your creative potential through practice.
Next Time: Reclaiming Your Creative Mind