The 7 Traits of Super-Creatives

Recognize anyone at your station?


A 1960s study at Cal Berkeley found that those our culture deem as “most creative” have 7 distinct traits in common.

Interestingly, IQ — raw intelligence — had only a modest role in creative thinking.

The common traits are:

  1. An openness to one’s inner life
  2. A preference for complexity and ambiguity
  3. An unusually high tolerance for disorder and disarray
  4. The ability to extract order from chaos
  5. Independence
  6. Unconventionality
  7. A willingness to take risks

Frank Barron, the psychologist who conducted the research, wrote that the creative genius was “both more primitive and more cultured, more destructive and more constructive, occasionally crazier and yet adamantly saner, than the average person.”

A later study of creative writers found they tend to be more introspective than “normal” people. “This led to increased self-awareness, including a greater familiarity with the darker and more uncomfortable parts of themselves.”

We lionize super-creatives like Steve Jobs and David Foster Wallace but they are notoriously difficult to work with.

I’ve had the good fortune to work with a few and, without exception, they’ve been fired more than once, not because their work wasn’t brilliant, but because of the internal disruption they leave in their daily wake.

The problem is, Radio needs some super-creatives right now.

We need people who are unconventional and able to see the way forward through the fog of chaos.

My best advice, based on experience, is to give them as much freedom as you can.

Admit they have different rules than your other employees, because you will have to tolerate extremes you wouldn’t put up with otherwise.

But they’re worth it!

You may reach the point of diminished returns, you may eventually cut them loose, but don’t avoid hiring them because they’ll give you headaches.

Radio needs more disrupters right now.

They’re out here, but you’ve got to be willing to loosen the reins and let ’em run.