There’s a lot of controversy surrounding this question that largely stems from the question of degree. I’d say yes, people’s creative abilities can be improved. However, it’s unlikely you’re going to become a creative genius like Einstein or Mozart without some natural talent.
Is everyone creative? Sure they are, but in very different ways and to varying degrees. Our democratic longing to make everyone and everything equal has led us to make creative greatness indistinguishable from an act of personal expression. What is lacking is meaningful appreciation of the different levels of creativity and how we can use them as steps for increasing our own creative potential. Below are the five levels and types of creativity, from the easiest to the most difficult to master, along with suggestions for building creative muscle:
Mimetic Creativity: Mimesis is a term passed down to us from the Ancient Greeks meaning to imitate or mimic. This is the most rudimentary form of creativity. To improve mimetic creativity, travel to new places and meet new people. Be sure to look for patterns and benchmarks, as well as indicators of success or failure so that you have good ideas about what really works and doesn’t and why.
Biosociative Creativity: Biosociative is a term coined by the novelist Arthur Koestler in his celebrated book, The Art of Creation, to describe how our conscious mind, when relaxed, can connect rational with intuitive thoughts to produce eureka moments. Biosociative creativity occurs when a familiar idea is connected to an unfamiliar one to produce a novel hybrid. Brainstorming is an excellent example of biosociative creativity. You can find a variety of brainstorming methods to boost biosociative creativity on my website.
Analogical Creativity: Analogical creativity uses analogies to transfer information that we believe we understand in one domain, the source, to help resolve a challenge in an unfamiliar area, the target. In essence, analogies are bridges that allow our cognitive processes to quickly transport clusters of information from the unknown to the known, and back again. Analogies can also be used to disrupt habit-bound thinking to make way for new ideas. You can develop your analogical creativity through the “imaginary friend” role storming method whereby you imagine what someone might say or do if faced with a particular challenge.
Narratological Creativity: At its essence, narratological creativity is the art of storytelling. Our personal stories are perhaps the ultimate use of narratological creativity as we invent and reinvent the story of our life. In this way something that is deeply personal becomes allegorical or of mythic significance. You can improve your narratological creativity by practicing the art of storyboarding or by engaging in scenario making to project potential courses of action.
Intuitive Creativity: This final and most challenging level of creativity has often been promoted to the realm of spiritual and wisdom traditions. This is where creativity becomes bigger and possibly beyond us; it transcends our individuality. There are several methods for freeing and emptying the mind—meditation, yoga and chanting to name a few. The basic idea is to distract and relax the mind to create a flow state of consciousness where ideas come easily. The approaches to developing intuitive creativity are too numerous to chronicle here; however, free writing is a straightforward way to connect us with our intuitive self by simply observing what flows out of the pen or the tapping of the keys.