Although Isaac Asimov declined to participate in a 1959 government-run conference for anti-ballistic missile technology—he didn't want to possess any classified knowledge because it would limit his ability to express himself freely—he did pen some thoughts about the nature of creativity. Until now, that letter had remained unpublished. Here are some of Asimov's thoughts contained in the letter:
Creativity requires a cross-pollination of ideas:
"[W]hat is needed is not only people with a good background in a particular field, but also people capable of making a connection between item 1 and item 2 which might not ordinarily seem connected."
New ideas will seem ridiculous, at first:
"To begin with, [a new idea] usually seems unreasonable. It seems the height of unreason to suppose the earth was round instead of flat, or that it moved instead of the sun..."
On meetings designed to encourage creativity:
"For best purposes, there should be a feeling of informality. Joviality, the use of first names, joking, relaxed kidding are, I think, of the essence—not in themselves, but because they encourage a willingness to be involved in the folly of creativeness. For this purpose I think a meeting in someone’s home or over a dinner table at some restaurant is perhaps more useful than one in a conference room."
If your salary depends on your next great idea, get out:
"To feel guilty because one has not earned one’s salary because one has not had a great idea is the surest way, it seems to me, of making it certain that no great idea will come in the next time either."
In his Big Think interview, Nobel Prize-winning neuropsychiatrist Dr. Eric Kandel describes what creativity looks like in the brain:
Read the full letter at Technology Review
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