The Creative Curve: The Science Behind Creativity

12 May 2019


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the creative curve by allen gannett cover

Allen Gannett shows us in The Creative Curve how creativity doesn’t just pop out of nowhere

Creativity is something that is learned over long periods of time. The Creative Curve demystifies ‘overnight success’ stories and how geniuses like Elon Musk and Motzart became so well known for their ideas and innovations. Part of being creative does lie in your genes, but overall that only makes up a small fraction of your whole potential.


Allen Gannett’s book is based on the analytics behind creativity. Although he did not do all the studies himself he took the time to research and interview many people just for this book. I give him much respect for putting together a well-researched book with science and analytics to back up his points. Whether you apply these takeaways is up to you but according to the research and personal experiences it works.


The Beatles was a prime example used throughout the book. There were other musical references as well but not only limited to that. The Beatles was a prime example because of the story behind the hit song Yesterday (my favorite Beatles song). Paul McCartney’s revelation of the song and its insane creativity seemingly came from nowhere. But it can’t just come from out of thin air.


The main source of McCartney’s revelation came from a combination of purposeful practice and refinements to combining what is familiar with something that is novel. He had been playing, experimenting and listening to music so long that the chords for Yesterday at first felt like it came out of nowhere, but in reality, it was his own purposeful study, practice and most likely the people he surrounded himself with (musicians/bandmates) that inspired him to come up with something unique.


Creativity is not like magic like some people think. It’s not just luck (although luck does have a place only if you put yourself in its way). There’s a structure you must follow in order to optimize your creative juices.


What Allen discovered during his studies was that there are four laws of the creative curve (the creative curve shown below) which are:

  1. Consumption
  2. Imitation
  3. Communities
  4. Iterations

the creative curve graphAllen’s key here is to implement all laws of the creative curve in order to hit the sweet spot with your product, song or service.


The 1st Law of The Creative Curve: Consumption

Getting good at something takes a lot of practice and study. The whole study behind the 10,000-hour rule is bullshit though. There is no possible way you can become an expert at something in just 10,000 hours. Each person and each profession takes a different amount of time (actually it’s not about time, it’s about repetitions) to become an expert.


And even just repeating something over and over without improvement won’t do you any good. Your practice must be purposeful.


In order to reach a point where everyone calls you an expert (even though you still have to learn new things), you need to consume as much related material as you possibly can. Once you reach this level of expertise you no longer need to consume as much information or do as much practice in order to become better. That doesn’t mean you should stop.

Combine Ideas

When you have tons of experience, especially in different areas of life, you can combine those ideas to make a new one that is both familiar and novel.


I have been teaching English for 8 years.

I help people to develop themselves through reading nonfiction books.

Combine – Personal Development English Lessons


The 20 Percent Principle

Spend 20 percent of your waking hours consuming material in your field.

I’m awake for about 17 hours per day. 20 percent of 17 hours would be 3 hours and 24 minutes. To be honest, currently, I spend about 1 hour right now consuming material. How about you?

Now this means I personally need to start consuming more. Consuming materials is like the fuel to your own creativity. It’s the building blocks toward success.

Your first step is immersing yourself in the field of your interest, in every aspect that you can.


The 2nd Law of The Creative Curve: Imitation

Have you ever noticed that most songs, films, and books among other things follow a formula? Some do it well and others don’t, but there is a reason why these creators follow a structure. To make it familiar. Structures and formulas aren’t a burden as you might think. They allow you room to focus most of your energy on the novelty of your creation.


The Franklin Method

Create an outline of an article or book you admire.

What were the main points of each section?

Rewrite the article or book using the same outline.


The 3rd Law of The Creative Curve: Communities

Building a community of like-minded people around you who compliment your skills and have connections outside of your own reach is key to reaching success. This success usually goes to having an amazing mentor if you can get one. The Creative Curve talks about four different types of people you should have in your network: A Master Teacher, A Conflicting Collaborator, A Modern Muse, and A Prominent Promoter (I love the use of alliteration).


A Master Teacher

The most successful people had mentors. One of the major hurdles is in finding one that has the time and ability to be a good mentor for your specific needs. When searching for a mentor you must have perseverance. As the book says don’t wait for someone to stroll along and take you under their wing. You must be curious, kind and relentless. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help.


Another great way to find a mentor or a group of people who can help you to generate more creativity is in a great urban area full of coworking spaces or meetups where you can share your ideas with other like-minded people. You’ll surely be able to find people to help and others to help you.


A Conflicting Collaborators

Finding a partner is essential. The lone wolf rarely ever survives in the long run. The trick just like finding a mentor is finding the right person to work with. This someone should have some of the same qualities as you yet can question your ideas in a polite way. If you both agree on everything you won’t make as much progress as when you challenge each other to be better. The goal is to find someone who balances each other out.


A Modern Muse

These are the people who give you motivation. They could be your friends, family, or a community you’re involved in. Many of these modern muses share the same ideals/goals as you and are able to provide valuable input in whatever your venture may be.


A Prominent Promoter

This is someone with a big influence who is willing to advocate you and your work. The more credibility the prominent promoter has the better it is for you. Surrounding yourself with a diverse group of people will not only help them but it will help you to be much more creative.


The 4th Law of The Creative Curve: Iterations

The four steps of iteration mentioned in The Creative Curve are Conceptualization, Reduction, Curation, and Feedback.



This is where you brainstorm a list of as many items you can think of. It doesn’t matter how many you think of because later you’ll be narrowing the list down.



This is where you widdle your list down to a reasonable size. You can give online surveys to potential customers to help widdle your list down.



This is where you test your idea out on a very small group of people within your circle to narrow your choices down even further.



You have released your idea out into the public in a small test area. You must then listen carefully to what people are saying, take the data and make appropriate changes. It’s vital to listen closely in the early stages.


The Creative Curve Takes Time to Master

The information in this book is very useful for making your longterm goals. Although the book might not be as practical as I would have liked it still gave me a great framework to refer to for my future projects. Just like anything I realize The Creative Curve will take time to master.


The things you strive for in your life will take time to master. Allen mentioned several times throughout the book to continue absorbing information about your field. That was one of the things I loved most. Lifelong learning is at the base of everything. That’s why I do what I do with BookMattic. Why do you do what you do? What drives you to achieve your goals?


Ask yourself this, study it, discover it, then take action on it!


Book Recommendations

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Contagious by Jonah Berger


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