Creativity is collaborative

“There’s nothing new under the sun.”  Ecclesiastes 1:9

It seems a little paradoxical, but this well-worn idiom from the Bible can explain a lot about creativity.  While we tend to think of the creative genius as a lone artist able to conjure up a host of novel ideas, research demonstrates that the opposite is true.

Creativity and innovation come about when known ideas are combined into new associations.  The component ideas of this new association come from somewhere, almost invariably other people.  

From this point of view, creativity is always collaborative, whether the collaborators are present or absent, contemporary or historic.  Collaboration can also be unconscious or deliberate, instantaneous or prolonged.