Characteristics of Super-Creatives
Creativity and Schitzotypal Personality Disorder
By Jeffrey Baumgartner
Although everyone is creative, some people are naturally super-creative. They have endless, original ideas are highly energised and often seem a bit eccentric. With the help of the Mayo Clinic, I have compiled a list of common characteristics of such super-creatives, who typically display five or more of these characteristics.
- They are often loners, having few if any close friends outside of the immediate family.
- They often interpret events differently than others and may even feel that external events have personal meaning.
- Their thinking is often seen as peculiar, eccentric or unusual. They frequently hold unusual beliefs that colour their thinking.
- They may dress in peculiar ways.
- They often believe in special powers, such as telepathy, and the supernatural.
- Sometimes they experience perceptual alterations, in some cases bodily illusions, including phantom pains or other distortions in the sense of touch.
- They often feel excessive social anxiety.
- They may use peculiar styles of speech, such as loose or vague patterns of speaking or rambling oddly and endlessly during conversations.
- They may demonstrate suspicious or paranoid ideas, hypersensitivity, and constant doubts about the loyalty and fidelity of others.
- They often seem flat emotionally, or demonstrate limited or inappropriate emotional responses.
Do you know people with such characteristics? How about you?
How about your organisation? Do you have employees with such characturistics in your organisation? Would you consider hiring such people to boost creativity?
Oops, excuse me. Those where not characteristics of super-creatives. Rather, they are characteristics of people with schizotypal personality disorder (SPD), a sort of high functioning schizophrenia. Unlike people suffering from schizophrenia, people with SPD are often able to function reasonably well in society. They can hold jobs, raise families and contribute positively to society. They also tend to have vivid imaginations and be exceptionally creative. Their minds make strange connections that result in original thinking.
Moreover, recent research has shown that "positive" schizotypy is associated with flow type features as described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (see his TED talk for an explanation if you are unfamiliar with the concept) as a key part of boosted creativity. (To learn more about the relationship between SPD and flow, I suggest this article in Psychology Today.)
Interestingly, some scientists have suggested that the continued prevalence of full blown schizophrenia in the population is a consequence of the creative value of SPD. Scientists have long wondered why schizophrenia rates in the population have remained consistent for as long as records have been kept. Because schizophrenia is not a desirable trait, they would have expected it to be slowly bred out of the population. However, creativity is a positive trait -- this is why musicians, artists and authors are often considered to be very desirable partners. As a result, creative people with SDP have sex which leads to children and so pass on the genes for schizotypic disorders including full blown schizophrenia.
I have only scratched the surface of the linkages between SPD and creativity. There has been a lot of research into the topic and it makes for fascinating reading. It also suggests that if organisations want to hire super-creative thinkers, they should consider SPD on two levels. Firstly, some highly creative people they hire may have SPD. Secondly, they might purposely look for people who demonstrate the characteristics of SPD.
Employers should also bear in mind that people with SPD are typically loners and are more likely than most to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders. So, your schizotypic employee might be an incredible generator of truly creative ideas that could do great things for your innovation. But she probably will not fit in with your corporate culture, may not be a team player and may need a little emotional help from time to time.
However, if super-creativity and its resulting innovation are important to you, that should be a small price to pay!
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