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Creativity Beats Intelligence Today

  • Posted by EWA Author
  • On July 15, 2021
  • Creative ideas and solutions are scientifically proven to be more challenging to achieve than intelligent analysis.
  • Creative people are more likely to succeed in managing unexpected events.
  • Creativity is and will be even more demanded and distinctive than intelligence.
  • Creativity is a talent that could be nurtured and trained just like any muscle in our body.

For years, IQ was seen as the most potent factor to determine one’s success and productivity. We also see how creativity is more powerful in certain fields only, like arts and marketing. However, in a world faster than ever, does creativity beat intelligence today?

In our rapidly developing world, it’s observable that humanity’s greatest achievements have relied on creativity, imagination, and flexibility. We’re beginning to delegate our intelligence by training machines. Artificial intelligence is indeed forecasted to achieve human-level intelligence, definitely surpassing human accuracy, by 2030.1

Creativity, also known as Cognitive flexibility, allows us to recognize when what we do isn’t resulting in any success and enables us to create the right changes to achieve it.2 Indeed, it’s an environment-based response where we change our behavior/mentality to adapt quickly. For this reason, entry levels, such as internships, aren’t only evaluated based on academic excellence, but also on what candidates bring to the table and what they can do differently.


AI and automation are also taking over many of our daily tasks and common jobs. With the spectacular evolution of AI, there might be a chance future CVs will focus more on creativity than intelligence. Your experience and knowledge will be less significant when AI is more capable of achieving the same levels of productivity, with higher accuracy and more affordably. Candidates, job seekers, and ones that want to stand out will need to provide evidence of their cognitive flexibility and their ability “to think outside the box”.

There was no uniform response to COVID last year, each nation and leader practically responded differently. Assuming scenarios where leaders were strictly “intelligent” and not flexible, we wouldn’t have had leaders like Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand planning and thinking swiftly to make her nation the first COVID-free country3. It’s those who possess high cognitive flexibility skills that are more adaptable and capable to handle unexpected events and circumstances.

Nevertheless, Knowledge and IQ are vital factors of creative success. As the noted neuroscientist Karl Pfenninger argues, creativity is on top of a structured pyramid of knowledge and intelligence4. They are not mutually exclusive, and neither is sufficient without the other. However, cognitive flexibility positions on top because it requires an extra effort to think beyond the available facts and imaginatively process them. Hence, creative solutions and ideas have been proven to be more challenging to formulate than intelligent analysis.


One real-world example of this is observed in art and food critics. Ever thought about what these critics could have done if they produced their art? Probably very little. This is because they have an edge over the producers in terms of intelligence and encyclopedic knowledge, but they do not possess the flexibility or creativity to create their art. The most renowned critics provide the most brilliant analyses, but this is usually a remote factor of success for any theatrical, cinematic, or literal masterpieces.

How to train your creativity:

Creativity, in its flexible nature, could be nurtured and strengthened, just like any muscle in our body. Not by structured learning, but by practical and hands-on approaches to cultivating imaginative thinking. Here are some things you could do to potentially develop your creativity and cognitive flexibility:

Let your imagination run wild: a wandering brain is most often the one that’s most likely to be a creative one. Do not limit yourself, thoughts, or approaches to a specific code or criteria. Let your brain run different scenarios and allow your ideas to flow freely.

Practicing Mindfulness5: If you’re fonder of routines and uniformity, the first tip above may be hard to achieve. That’s the reason why unblocking your brain might be a potential solution to boost your creativity. A 15–30-minute daily mediation practice to immerse yourself in the present moment and unclog your mind will encourage your brain to think more openly and freely.

Read and watch more: preferably read more books and novels that give you the freedom to imagine. Don’t binge, take breaks and allow room for assumption and interpretations. Reflecting on these artistic pieces will act as a workout to your imaginative thinking, and without realizing it, you will start adopting a more lateral way of learning and thinking in real life. Give it a try!

Look in the details: ever thought why McDonald’s uses prominent red in their branding? Marketing is most often deemed the most creative force behind any business success, but usually these efforts and details are taken for granted. While looking at an ad, commercial, or even flyer, try to observe why the creators chose this font, color, image, format and layout, or anything you could delve slightly deeper in than the surface. If you can’t, research the most successful campaigns and their reasons for success; you’ll be shocked and astonished. (P.S. McDonalds uses red because the color, subconsciously, stimulates hunger).

We, humans, are one of complex nature. We’re too multidimensional to attribute one quality to our development as a species. Yet, one powerful and overgrowing force is humanity’s creativity and cognitive flexibility. Nurture your creativity at the same pace you nurture your intelligence and knowledge, and you will be able to see how distinctive you, and your achievements, are going to be.


Extra Readings/References

Jacquelyn Sahakian, B., 2021. Why is cognitive flexibility important and how can you improve it?. [Blog] World Economic Forum.

PEW Research Center. (2012, December 10). Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humans.

SWART, TARA. (2019, May 5). This is how you train your brain to be more creative. Fast Company. .

Bloomfield, M. (2018, May 11). Thrive Global. .

Jones, A. (2020, July 9). How did New Zealand become Covid-19 free? BBC News. .