#1 Indicator For Success (According to Science)
What is the key to success?
Is it hard work?
These all play a vital role; you nor I can dispute it. But what is the true key to success that transcends all fields and industries? Would you be shocked to learn that it's "creativity"? We'll look at some fun scientific research. And you'll see why.
So this isn't it. Who knew?
What is Creativity?
Creativity is the ability to think beyond what is to see what could be. It is how we get from point A to point B even if Point C, D and E are blocking our way. And usually, they are.
You might say that this is diligence and not creativity. But pure diligence without creativity would be the equivalent to just ramming C,D and E until they get out of your way. This is rarely an effective approach.
There is no adaptation or evolution in industry without Innovation. Creativity allows us to learn and grow. And without it, we tread water, our businesses stagnate, we can't seem to get ahead in our careers, we can't seem break through the competitor noise to reach our customers.
Without it, all of that hard work, networking, intelligence and charisma can't be put to good use to find success.
No product or service would ever have been invented. We'd be living off whatever vegetation we could forage and running away from the wild animals clawing at our bare bottoms if someone hadn't picked up a sharp rock or bone at some point and said, "hey, this could be a tool."
Video: 2001: A Space Odyssey
How Creativity Determines Success in the 21st Century
The fact is that everyone has within them the ability to be creative. You never would have learned to speak, or figured out how to ride a bike or talk to girls/boys that you like, if you didn't have some element of creativity within you. It's the drive to try something new, to figure it out, to fail and to try a different approach until you got it.
Let's Read a Story About Science.
This is a great story, actually.
The Scientist Project, a 20 year study that ended in 1978 but is still very relevant today, is summarized in Psychology Today article titled: Arts and Crafts: Keys to Scientific Creativity.
The study followed 40 very different scientists across 20 years of their careers, putting them through extensive interviews and observations regarding their IQs, daily work habits, interests, routines, etc.
By '78 the group had 4 nobel prize winners and several others who were nominated, while others had more average careers.
What link did this study find between those who had the most successful careers?
It wasn't their:
Who they knew
How they related to people
How hard they worked.
In fact, the study came up empty-handed. They concluded that there was no single determining factor for success.
Really? That's not a happy ending.
Fear not, the story doesn't end there.
Another group of researchers re-connected with the scientists 10 years later, with a new project and set of factors to consider. This group did find the link.
The scientist who could be said to be more successful by most standards valued:
creative exercises outside the lab, like discourse, music, art, hobbies or crafting.
not focusing too much on one project or angle for too long
"not beating a dead horse", so to speak, if it wasn't working despite diverse and creative approaches.
relaxation/meditation as a way to rejuvenate the mind, and they often even called themselves "lazy", although the study found they still worked what most would consider long hours.
The less "successful" scientists tended to value:
working very long hours until they found the solution
not stepping away until they had solved the problem
not allowing "outside distractions and diversions" to take away from work.
They also found something very ironic indeed.
If you put the Nobel Prize winner in Physics up against a less successful Physicist, for example, you might be shocked to find that the less successful Physicist actually knew "more" about physics.
There is a very clear explanation for this. The more successful scientists tended to be "jacks of all trades".
They were actually less well-versed in one area of science, but tended to be very knowledgeable across many areas of study. This meant that they had a broader focus on the world and could adapt techniques across different areas of science. Their less in-depth but broader knowledge made them more creative. And this creativity is what had served them so well.
How does this study apply across industries?
It doesn't take much creativity to figure out how this study applies to other fields like business, finance, marketing, product development, human resources, education, councelling and so on.
Every industry must tackle obstacles, must solve problems, must get from point A to point B.
It also brings to light why "experts" in 1 industry sometimes clash with more creative people who may know less in that one area but, have a much broader understanding of the big picture. I'll save that topic for another piece.
When you have more diverse knowledge, regardless of your industry, you are better able to adapt what worked somewhere else for someone else to what you are trying to figure out. You are more likely to create something entirely new. This is creativity at its core.
How can you cultivate creativity in yourself?
Maybe you don't think you're that creative. You might be surprised when you put the right pieces to the puzzle in place.
Here are 10 quick tips to cultivating creativity.
1. Get out of your industry/area of expertise to look for inspiration or solutions to problems.
2. Value relaxation, meditation and doing things you love aside from work.
3. Don't think that long hours are a substitute for creativity, when it comes to achieving success.
4. Understand that long hours can actually narrow your thinking and make you less creative.
5. Don't be afraid to walk away when something isn't working. "Eureka" moments almost always happen after you've let your mind relax, sometimes even in your sleep.
8. Don't be afraid to try new things. If it's a proven technique, in fast moving industries like business/marketing/recruiting, it's probably already being overdone and becoming less effective by the day as creative people figure out how to work around it. So innovate.
9. Get some exercise. Physical fitness is tied to creativity. Increased blood flow, more endorphins, improved energy all improve our higher level thought processed like creativity.
10. Love what you do. Even if you're stuck in a job you don't necessarily like, put your creativity to work making it the best it can be. And if it's not somewhere you want to stay you will very quickly see how the world opens up and welcomes creative people.
What are your thoughts on this study?
Do you agree that it may have found the key to success?
How do you apply creativity to be successful in your life?