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Creativity: it’s what makes us human

What really makes us human? Love? Fear? An ability to turn every conversation into a discussion about the weather?

According to Agustin Fuentes, an anthropologist and Professor from the University of Notre Dame, the answer is creativity and collaboration; two things we are rather fond of here at ifour – so we decided to pursue his ideas a little further.

Fuentes is a guy who knows a thing or two about the past, having made a rather successful career from studying it and has unearthed some fascinating patterns that match modern behavior in humans and animals. He puts forward a rather compelling case in his book The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional to suggest that our evolution has not come from the drive to reproduce, compete for power or even a desperate fight for resources, but rather our inbuilt creative drive.

A quick history of everything

85,000 years ago, in southern Africa, our ancestors were carving on ostrich eggshells. Twenty thousand years earlier than that, they were drilling holes in small shells and wearing them around their necks. One hundred thousand years before that, they were crumbling ochre and rubbing it on their bodies. Five hundred thousand years before that, half a million years ago, they were making tools that were incredibly beautiful and more symmetrical and aesthetic than they had to be to do their jobs. Art is intertwined with human history.

It takes two to Tango

Fuentes also argues that in addition to imagination, every major development from religion to war also requires collaboration. Every poet has her muse; every engineer, an architect; every politician, a constituency. The way we work with others to get inspiration varies widely, but successful collaboration is inseparable from imagination, and has brought us all manner of useful things from knives and hot meals to iPhones and interstellar spacecraft.

Creativity = progress

Fuentes is not the only one who has put forward this claim on the power of creativity. Coming from a very different perspective is Teresa M. Amabile, Director of Research at Harvard Business School (yes- she’s an impressive lady). Teresa also claims that ‘creativity is essentially responsible for all of human progress.’

Creativity is revered as one of the greatest qualities amongst staff at leading global organisations, because it helps us to interpret the world around us and the problems we face in new ways. The ability to imagine and to take that imagination and make it into reality is one of the things that is really distinctive about humans. Whether it’s painting, building airplanes, or figuring out how to organise a distribution system, it all stems from the same creative capacity.

Practice makes perfect

Albert Einstein said, “For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” Implying that, whilst built into our DNA, creativity is something we need to exercise. It’s a process of engaging imagination with reality – working together to try and find the best way of doing things.

If you take a look at our website (it’s actually an award-winning website, but we don’t like to brag!) then you’ll find all you need to know about the creative process we take our clients through here at ifour. You’ll see there’s a lot of collaboration and a lot of imagination because, as history shows, that’s what keeps the world moving.

If you want to find out more about what we do, talk about the evolution of man, or just drink coffee in a lovely office, we’d love to hear from you: