Is Imitation The Hidden Key To Creativity?

People like Catherina Fake, the Flickr co-founder, and Stefan Sagmeister keep their creative juices flowing. They point out: Constantly working hard blinds you to breakthrough ideas; one solution is taking copious time off. Maybe that solves the problem for individuals. But can society organize itself in such a way as to maximize the number of good ideas it produces? asks Fast Company.

It might sound like an impossible question, but Stefan Leijnen and Liane Gabora at the University of British Columbia in Canada have created a clever mathematical model that offers an answer.

Their key insight is that creative ideas can only spread if they’re actually adopted by others. Too much creativity, and there’s not enough imitation–ideas die on the vine, because there are so many of them and few ever catch fire. For good ideas to spread, there’s an optimal balance to be reached between creating and imitating.

Photo by paolamuria.

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