Allen Gannett (@allen) is the founder and CEO of TrackMaven, a placeholder on the 30 under 30 lists for both Forbes and Inc., and the author of The Creative Curve: How To Develop The Right Idea, At The Right Time.

What We Discuss with Allen Gannett:

  • Creativity isn’t innate to a lucky few geniuses; it’s a quality that anyone can learn to develop.
  • Why many stories about so-called geniuses are embellished to sell an inaccurate idea of what creativity is and where this quality comes from.
  • What various fields of study have known — for years — about the relationship between intelligence and creativity and how this is at odds with popular belief.
  • Steps that show us how we can cultivate the right qualities and environment so that episodes of creative genius are more likely to strike us when we need it.
  • The four laws of the creative curve that, if followed, will endow anyone with creative prowess.
  • And much more…
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Contrary to what many people believe, the spark of creativity is not something with which a person is intrinsically endowed at birth. There are recurring patterns showing us that creativity can be developed; if you are willing to take the time and put in the effort, even you can get there.

Our guest is TrackMaven Founder and CEO Allen Gannett, the author of the new book The Creative Curve: How To Develop The Right Idea, At The Right Time. In this episode we’ll discuss the impact of creative communities, why most creatives spend 20% of their time creating dots to connect, and why active, deliberate practice will beat the 10,000 hour rule. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

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More About This Show

While popular opinion has long held that people who display world-changing bursts of creative output are somehow rare geniuses blessed by divine, unearthly forces, The Creative Curve: How To Develop The Right Idea, At The Right Time author Allen Gannett contends that research in neuroscience, sociology, and psychology has been telling us otherwise for years.

“The conclusion is, no matter how you look at it, we see that creativity is a learnable, nurturable skill,” says Allen. “They do studies around creative potential, for example, they find these crazy stats. Like 86 percent of kindergartners test at creative genius levels of potential. They find that there’s no relationship between IQ and creative potential. When they’ve done longitudinal studies where they follow kids with genius-level IQs for their entire lives starting from childhood, they find those kids are no more likely to be these great, big future household names.

“What’s amazing to me is how much consensus there is in academia around this stuff. How much consensus there is that creativity is a learnable, nurturable skill. But I think we’ve been sold this idea that creativity’s this special thing because it’s what sells magazines! There’s this famous story of Mozart as this guy who would compose music in his head, and this came from a letter that he wrote that was published in 1815 in a music magazine.

“And here’s the problem: that ‘letter’ where he describes his composition process was literally #fakenews! The music magazine publisher just forged it to sell copies back in 1815! So we’ve been embellishing creativity for years because…I think people like the idea that there are these people out there who are special, who have these powers, because I think it also makes us feel like there might be something like that for us — ‘If I just look far enough and hard enough, maybe I’ll find something that [is naturally] easy.'”

But as we get older and this “natural” genius doesn’t manifest, so many of us give up and settle into whatever role we’ve happened to fall into. But the truth is that while creativity might seem to come more naturally to some than others, developing that creativity to a level of greatness still takes time and effort.

Mozart didn’t emerge from the womb composing operas, Einstein’s observations didn’t scribble themselves on a kindergarten chalkboard, and Michelangelo probably spent his childhood vandalizing walls as unremarkably as any other child. None of these popularly recognized geniuses waited for their “natural” talents to emerge of their own accord, but pursued the mastery of their respective crafts through intensely hard work.

Allen says that Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours (as detailed in his book Outliers) is an oversimplification of what scientists like Anders Ericsson have learned about the role of deliberate practice in propelling us toward greatness — it’s not so much the number of hours spent that make the difference, but the type of practice being done with those hours.

“We think of our brain as this fixed thing; we think of creativity as this fixed thing. We think of our skills and our cognitive abilities as fixed things, but the reality is far from it,” says Allen. We just have this tendency to assume we can’t change things that we can’t see.”

Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about why we seem to have our most striking “ah-hah” moments in the shower and other unlikely places, what we can do to encourage this to happen more often, what helps us best connect the dots between the otherwise unrelated to come up with new combinations between familiarity and novelty, what studying the work of other creators for 20 percent of our day does for our own process, the difference between deliberate practice and rote practice, how Allen cold emails hard-to-reach people, the importance of creative communities, and lots more.


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