To do list: return emails, read literature, become more creative…

Has our obsession with the left-brain killed creativity in science?

The Individual Development Plan (IDP) we each completed for our lab meeting last week spurred lots of interesting conversation at our lab meeting. In case you missed it, the IDP is a self-assessment Science created to help early-career scientists find a career path that fits their skills, interests, and values.

It all started with a review of our best and worst (self-ranked) skills. Most of us in the lab ranked “creativity/innovative thinking” as one of our weaker skills. But then we thought… is creativity truly a skill? Is it something we can improve upon just as we improve upon other items listed alongside it in the IDP assessment? We can improve our recordkeeping practices by creating an organizational system and we can improve our grant writing abilities by practicing, but how exactly are we to “improve” our creativity? Or is it simply something you are born with?

The answer, I believe, lies in the fact that we are framing the question the wrong way. Creativity is not a straightforward skill we can fix by creating a SMARTgoal and setting a deadline, as the IDP suggests, and as scientists, we would like to believe. Creativity is fostered by activating multiple parts of our brains (see the link below)– which to our dismay, does not always happen at the appropriate time in our schedules. Even if we set aside a few hours each week to do an “artistic” activity that we believe should stimulate the so-called creative mind, it doesn’t always work. That creativity is a process rather than a discrete task is frustrating! Though innovation is essential in creating appropriate designs for experiments or preventing [insert pesky model organism here] from escaping its treatment yet again, many scientists do not recognize these acts as adding to their creative processes.
This combined with the tendency amongst scientists in academia to look down upon other fields of study is a dangerous mindset. Historically, the best science has involved a great deal of interdisciplinary creativity. Today, scientists are sitting around a table –myself included– asking what we can do to fix our creativity. It’s time to debunk the left vs. right brain and science vs. art debates, so we can all improve the quality of our work.

For more on the “messiness” which is the neuroscience behind creativity, check out the link below. It reviews steps of the creative process and the three major networks in our brains that are used during each step.

This entry was posted in Blog Posts, Featured.
Bookmark the permalink.
Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>