Forget Myers-Briggs. A study out of BI Norwegian Business School has determined the signposts of a "creative" personality. Conducted by Professor Øyvind L. Martinsen, the study posed 200 questions to 481 people. The subjects fell into three categories. One group of "baseline" subjects such as lecturers or managers, and two groups of people who are generally considered to be creative, such as students of advertising and performing artists. Martinsen says he found meaningful differences between the creative and noncreative groups.
There are seven elements of a creative personality, so if you’re thinking about quitting your job as a lawyer or stock analyst to go on tour with your band or finally write that novel, you might want to consider the list below.
You’re Creative If:
Your Mind Has an Associative Orientation. This means that you have an active imagination. "You can fluctuate between daydreaming and perceiving reality," says Martinsen. "You’re playful and have an experimental attitude." But you are also able to become deeply absorbed in your work. For example, you might be so involved in your work that you forget to eat lunch. Interestingly, the advertising students scored slightly higher with associative orientation than the artists. But both these groups ranked higher than the baseline sample.
You Hunger for Originality. The managers and lecturers were all about rules and systems. They lacked a rebellious spirit, which the advertising students and artists had in spades.
You’re Highly Motivated. All three groups were generally motivated to succeed, but the artists and ad students had just a bit more get-up-and-go.
You’re Ambitious. Artists demonstrated less of a craving for recognition and fame than the advertising students. Martinsen says this is because artists tend to be more introverted, which makes them less exhibitionist. Maybe he hasn’t heard of Lady Gaga.
You’re Flexible. Artists and advertising students seem more likely to be part of Generation Flux. They can take a "glass half empty" situation and rebrand or reimagine it as half full.
You’re Emotionally Volatile. Both the artists and advertising students were more neurotic than the noncreative subjects. "They sense the world around them very strongly, and they tend to worry," says Martinsen. "Some of them even like to worry," he adds.
You’re a Pain in the Butt. Both the marketing students and the artists were equally prickly when it came to interpersonal relationships. They demonstrated less concern for other people, were more critical and less friendly. "Creative people need to have distance from the world around them, so they can find something that can be improved," says Martinsen. "But that can have relational implications." And how. Steve Jobs designed brilliant products, but he wasn’t exactly fun to work with.
Martinsen says that our personalities become fixed around the age of 25 or 30; if you’re inherently creative, you should know it—and display at least some of the seven tendencies— by then. But if you’re not particularly creative and want to be, do not despair. "You can change the way that you behave in relation to the world around you," says Martinsen. In other words, you can teach yourself to be more creative.
Environment can have a particularly strong influence on a person’s creative prowess. Martinsen says that a typically noncreative person can become much more so when his or her surroundings encourage rule-bending and free thought. But be forwarned: Martinsen doesn’t know whether an inherently noncreative person would continue to display creative tendencies if put back in a boring work environment. You might miss having lots of great ideas, but at least people will like you again.