Relationship Between Intelligence and Creativity
Intelligence is the ability to acquire and utilize knowledge, whereas creativity is the act of having original and valuable thoughts.
It’s immediately clear see how the two are linked in utility, though not so much in substance. Let’s explore.
For some time (hundreds of centuries now) the myth that you have to be intelligent to have creative ideas has persisted. Yet research into the mind shows that you do not need a high level of intellect to think creatively, nor should you expect to have grandiose creative insights as a result of being of above-par intelligence.
A child has a relatively low level of intelligence, but children are often prime examples of creativity (original, valuable thought) in action. To quote Sir Ken Robinson in his famous TED talk on creativity:
I heard a great story recently — I love telling it — of a little girl who was in a drawing lesson. She was six and she was at the back, drawing, and the teacher said this little girl hardly ever paid attention, and in this drawing lesson she did. The teacher was fascinated and she went over to her and she said, “What are you drawing?” And the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” And the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” And the girl said, “They will in a minute.”
So we see examples of creative thought from children whose intelligence is relatively low, but there is undoubtedly some connection between level of intelligence and creative capability.
There appears to be a central point where a higher level of intellect intersects with a higher capability for creative output, but that point is likely to be lower than you might expect (or hoped).
The magic number, it seems, is around 100 IQ points (it should be noted this is entirely anecdotal based on personal research and little more). Why an IQ of only 100? 100 is the average IQ score in America, and it’s roughly the same score that grades one’s ability to read and interpret information at a reasonable level for one’s age.
Of course, if you have an IQ lower than 100 (or higher) you can still be creative, but the value of the ideas you produce at lower IQ levels is going to be considerably lower. For example: a toddler may have the creative insight that paper, when folded in the appropriate pattern, can soar for a certain distance, but that knowledge isn’t going to be very appealing for an adult who understands aerodynamics and basic physics.
Therefore powerful, valuable, creative insights (and, again, we’re talking about value on a grander scale than the individual here) come as a result from one’s ability to take-in new information or experiences. Being able to read, write, and ruminate intelligently on knowledge is where those insights of value will come from.
But that level of 100 is pretty strong; being able to understand quantum mechanics does not — by nature — mean you’re more likely to have a creative idea that provides more value than an artist who struggles to even pronounce “quantum mechanics.”
Of course, if we’re talking about creative insights in any particular field or industry (like computer programming) then having a higher level of intelligence in that set field will equate to a larger ability to produce creative insights. But in general you do not need to be more intelligent to be more creative than anyone else.