A person that works closely with researchers once confided to me: “Researchers believe they are creative thinkers, but they are not.” Being a researcher myself, I know that there is unfortunately some dark truth to that statement. At a recent dinner party with a number of scientists, we agreed that researchers can suffer from tunnel vision and often lack the ability to think out of the box. But then again; how can you be a researcher if you are not creative?

More fun at work

After working as a researcher for many years I came to the conclusion that I wish I´d had more fun at work. While this may sound self-indulgent, it is actually practical. You will be able to do basic science and do it well without putting much creative thinking into it, but to do great ground breaking science; you have to be creative- you have to be able to think out of the box.

Why you should want to become more creative
Research and science is not put in the box of creative professions like design, film-making, writing and art. However, the few creative meetings I have been in inspired me, made me enjoy my work, gave me lots of ideas and made me want to be part of a more creative thinking environment. Over time, I have become more engaged with creatives and studied how they work. Here are 7 reasons why life scientists should want to become more creative:

Creative people:

  1. Have fun
  2. Have fun while making money
  3. See opportunities where others see obstacles
  4. Are not afraid of failure
  5. Dare to take risks
  6. Are happier
  7. Are playful

Why you should not want to be creative
I can´t think of one good reason for why you should not want to be creative. But, of course there are downsides to being a creative thinking person. Based on the creatives I interact with, they tend to be more disorganized. They tend to have many ideas but might not be that good at decisiveness. Creatives are not necessarily doer´s or particularly good finishers. But that said, bringing in more creativity in your life does not mean you will become disorganized or not able to finish projects. You can continue being organized. As I suggest in a different blog post, if you wish, you can embrace creativity by organizing it.

Have fun
As a researcher you are in the unique position of being able to make an impact on humanity. You are making a difference every day. Why does research have to be so serious? Have fun doing it. Think about how you can change your life for the better by becoming more creative.

In some other blog posts I have covered tips on how you can become more creative. I also suggest that you look at Michael Michalko´s web pages Creative Thinking. Michael Michalko is a highly acclaimed creativity expert and the author of Thinkertoys and several other best selling books about creativity. You can also look at this video from a TED talk on creativity an play by Tim Brown the CEO of IDEO, an award-winning global design and innovation consultancy.



What do you think?  Do bench researchers need to be creative, or is it better to be practical? Leave a comment below.