What is the evolutionary purpose of creativity?

saturn-341379_1280Evolutionary perspective to the topic to creativity is interesting, because it is exactly creativity that allows humans to have another form of rapid evolution, this is called culture.

So there is the actual biological evolution, that has come to the conclusion of the human body and mind. The evolutionary decision to leave the mind more open to learn new things has a huge disadvantage at first: humans take a long time to grow up and they are really helpless as a children. On the flip side, as a children we can grow and get into the existing group culture really quickly by learning facial recognition, language and behavior. In other words we learn very quickly as a children and our ability to learn and adapt is still maintained as adults. Thanks to the human mind, we are the most adapted species out there out of any: in a very short time we’ve come to habit this planet and as a first species we’ve flung ourselves out of this earth as well.

It is obvious that the biological evolution got us up to only to a certain point. According to the Yuval Noah Harari in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, essentially our starting point was on a Savannah in the middle of the food chain. We did not eat after the lions, we waited for the scavengers like hyenas and such to get to the carcass and only after that we would go and crush some bones with the stones and such. Our minds allowed us to somehow survive, then it allowed us to survive and finally thrive.


What made the transition of just surviving to thriving? Most importantly it is creativity and culture.

Culture is the collective way to do things: it is all the agreements and also the silent agreements to do things. People who would be living in Savannah that would be the usual routine of the group. Track down some carcass, wait and wait until our turn and then finally eat what’s left.

Most of us are willing to change the proven track if we are faced with hunger. However, what makes human societies especially special is this creativity which is essentially bringing new ideas into the culture. Essentially how this happens is story telling, which is the tool of the leaders.

The creative ability facilitated by human mind has allowed as time and time again to renew our culture, way of doing things. First we got from the middle parts of the food chain to the top thanks to the fire and bunch of other innovations. Then we essentially settled every corner of the world and even the orbit. It is the flexibility of the human mind and the culture, collective way of doing things that has allowed us to get here, so there is some evolutionary advantage in not having to have always a plan what to fill the minds with.


Resistance to the new ideas

Yet the road to this point wasn’t straightforward and without resistance. Culture itself as a way of doing things is kind of status quo, so to challenge that with new ideas requires a lots of effort. To be successful in this effort, one needs courage as well as the story telling skill to persuade others about the new way of action. Stories are often rejected on the first time we hear them. Actually our minds are hardwired to reject anything unfamiliar. Our minds love things that are familiar. This kind of thinking process belongs to the automatic and quick thinking group, we automatically rejects unfamiliar things without being at all rational about it. And even consciously we probably just want to show of our power by rejecting the new idea once or twice.

So how do new ideas become familiar then, if that is the requirement? Simply: repetition. Today there are even some more sophisticated strategies to get peoples attention and it’s what we call marketing. The new becomes familiar through repetition and once people have got their chance to reject it, will they reject it the second time? What about third time? Through my own experience as a marketer it’s just amazing how people change their minds after a few conversations over the years about a idea.

Why some creatives die before their ideas are accepted by wide audience?

Well the ideas they’ve presented have been ahead of their time and on the other hand societies have not been ready to accept these ideas yet. Essentially their ideas have been in the rejection zone during their lifetimes, but later on as their work continued to whisper their story and their ideas, people became to accept those as well.


If you are more interested about the human mind I really suggest to read Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow if you are more interested about this topic.

One thought on “What is the evolutionary purpose of creativity?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s