August 22, 2006

Geniuses, part deux

The July 2006 issue of Wired has a great article called What Kind of Genius Are You?. Daniel Pink discusses University of Chicago economist David Galenson, who studies geniuses in art and devised a theory suggesting "that creativity comes in two distinct types – quick and dramatic, or careful and quiet."

Essentially, Galenson argues that genius "comes in two very different forms, embodied by two very different types of people. 'Conceptual innovators,' as Galenson calls them, make bold, dramatic leaps in their disciplines. They do their breakthrough work when they are young. Think Edvard Munch, Herman Melville, and Orson Welles. They make the rest of us feel like also-rans. Then there’s a second character type, someone who’s just as significant but trudging by comparison. Galenson calls this group 'experimental innovators.' Geniuses like Auguste Rodin, Mark Twain, and Alfred Hitchcock proceed by a lifetime of trial and error and thus do their important work much later in their careers."

How did he make this assertion? He studied the relationship of an artist's age with his success as measured by the appearance of illustrations in art history textbooks and created an age / image frequency regression. He found that "Some artists were represented by dozens of pieces created in their twenties and thirties but relatively few thereafter. For other artists, the reverse was true."

Fascinating! Also love this quote: "Galenson, a classic library rat, began reading biographies of the artists and accounts by art critics to add some qualitative meat to these quantitative bones." (emphasis mine).

Gives some of us old-timers a wee bit of hope ...

What Kind of Genius Are You?
By Daniel H. Pink
Wired Magazine, July 2006
A new theory suggests that creativity comes in two distinct types – quick and dramatic, or careful and quiet.

No comments: