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Are you a visionary?

The definition of a visionary is someone who plans and strategizes with innovation, imagination and wisdom. But let’s add another word to that definition: Creativity.

Without creativity, there is no innovation or imagination. Without creativity, there is no wisdom either. The creative entrepreneur and executive is one who is impressively inventive. You might surprised to learn, however, that the old adage about necessity being the mother of invention isn’t necessarily true. In order to be a visionary, you should know that your creativity isn’t bound to necessity. You can tap into it at any time.

Deconstructing the Visionary Approach to Creativity

Creativity and invention have allowed the human race to perform wonders we would  never have thought possible a couple centuries ago, such as space travel and the Internet. Like humans, many species of animals show great inventiveness in certain situations. People have stated over and over that invention arises from necessity, but recent experiments show that this long-believed concept is not actually accurate. While humans (and animals) will do whatever they can to survive, drastic situations are not the ideal for creativity to reveal itself. Researchers now believe that the need for certain items actually inhibits creativity after they performed various tests with human and animal subjects.

What the Research Tells Us

Primatologist Carel van Schaik of the University of Zurich spent a significant portion of time studying orangutans, in captivity and the wild, and made some interesting observations. Wild orangutans were pretty boring when necessity arose, such as when food was scarce; they barely moved and consumed unappealing foods. The logic behind these actions makes a lot of sense though; by trying new foods, the orangutans risk eating something poisonous. Conversely, orangutans in captivity were much more adventurous in all areas, especially exploring new foods or items.

Another study dealt with Indian sugarcane farmers. They were asked to perform a cognitive test. After they initially took the test, they were given a payment that eased their financial concerns for the year. When they took the cognitive test again, their results drastically improved.

Various observations of animals in captivity and the wild have produced similar results – if the animal has basic needs provided for, the species is more likely to use objects as tools and display more creative behavior.

Looking Ahead

So where does creativity and innovation come from if not from necessity? The various experiments have shown that opportunity seems to be the most important factor. When humans and animals do not need to worry about basic concerns, such as food, shelter, or financial worries, they have more time to explore different ideas. Species or individuals who have a higher sense of exploration and adventure are also usually more creative, which may explain differences amongst humans.

Evolutionary biologist Joe Henrich of the University of British Columbia believes that innovation comes from the efforts of an entire species, stating that “history shows that inventions invariably build on earlier findings that are recombined and improved upon. Most of the things we use every day are inventions that no single human being could ever design within her lifetime.” He refers to this idea as humanity’s “collective brain,” which allows individuals to take older ideas and continuously develop them.