For several years the question of what makes a person creative has haunted the human race. The answer to the question has never been answered, until now.
In a sure-shot attempt to trump the popular belief of ‘constraints serve as a barrier to creativity’, two researchers have come up with a shockingly different result.
Since time immemorial, creativity has been defined as something artistic – the quintessential quality that creates masterpieces. But, it is actually a quality that gets everyday things done. It is a way to find out more economical and different ways to get the same thing done. For example, creativity is what a teacher uses to teach math in middle school or what people living in slums use water bottles for.
Patricia Stokes, a Columbia University researcher psychologist, had conducted an experiment in 1993 where she forced rodents to press a bar with their right paws. She witnessed that not only the rodents adapted to this constraint but they came up with different ways to press the bar as opposed to rodents who did not have such constraints.
This form of creativity is called “little ‘c’ creativity”- a form of creativity not focused on producing creativity but on solving practical problems through new uses and application of resources.
In a 2015 study led by two researchers, Ravi Mehta and Meng Zhu, it was concluded that people who have a scarcity of resources are more creative than the ones who have an abundance of resources.
The duo examined this by dividing sixty students into groups of two. One group was asked to write an essay on growing with paucity of resources while the other group wrote about growing up with abundance of resources. Then the groups were given bubble wrap sheets and were asked to come up with creative uses of the sheets. A panel of non-biased jury judged the uses that the groups wrote about and it was revealed that the group which wrote an essay about growing up with scarce resources had more creativity than the other group.
Hence, the question: why do people who have fewer resources see them less expansively? The answer is that the environment around us impels us to see differently. When one have fewer resources, the brain allows people less freedom to use resources conventionally.
Resource abundance can be counter-productive. Our problems and challenges become more manageable with scarce resources as it channels the energy to act more judiciously and make better use of the limited resources.