6.2 The Lonely Genius

A common theme that pervades the creativity literature is that creativity demands discourse, tension, dialog, and debate among the interested parties.Gardner (1994). Creativity endeavors are driven by interaction, search, and solitude. One of the most pervasive myths is the notion of the lone genius. The lone genius is the individual who toils away in the confined small room developing a grand theory and innovative ideas with little or no interaction. In reality, many inventions and innovative ideas are derived not in a vacuum of isolation, but rather in a sea of collaboration that is countered with periods of solitude and incubation. The prototypical lone genius is Albert Einstein. Einstein worked as a patent examiner during the time that he developed his ideas on relativity and theoretical physics. Einstein did not develop his ideas in solitude. His knowledge was based on intellectual foundations including his university studies, contemporary research papers of his time, and patent applications he viewed at the patent office. There is also evidence that he drew extensively on his academic contemporaries including Marcell Grossman (a classmate), Michele Besso (a friend at the patent office), and Mileva Einstein (his first wife) as sounding boards for his ideas.See, for example, Highfield and Carter (1993); Isaacson (2008); Ohanian (2008). The point is that anyone can become a wizard of ahas if they engage in serious learning-about and learning-by-doing with a pinch of collaboration and dialog. Curiosity and questioning are central to the success of creativity.For an overview of convergent and divergent thinking and questions related to these typologies and the psychological, sociological, and biological theories related to creativity, see Runco (2006). We are assuming that curiosity and questioning have not been completely driven out of the creative DNA that is hardwired in all humans.