Teaching originality? Common habits behind creative production in science and arts

Marten Scheffer*, Matthijs Baas, Tone K. Bjordam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Originality is a prerequisite for world-changing science and arts alike, but it cannot be taught. Or can it? Here, we show that a set of habits that are—surprisingly—shared among successful artists and scientists may catalyze creative output. We reveal three groups of such habits, each corresponding to a cluster of personality traits, shown to be shared by creative artists and scientists. The first habit group “embrace the unexpected” corresponds to the character trait “openness to new experiences” and encompasses tendencies to go ahead without a plan, collect diverse experiences, and take risks. The second group “create conditions for creation” links to the personality trait “autonomous” and encompasses simple habits such as making empty time and carrying a notebook. The third class of habits “break away from dogma” links to the shared personality trait “norm doubting” and stands for a strong drive to escape from established systems and also occasionally destroy part of one’s own work to break tunnel vision and start anew. Although personality traits are hard to change, the habits we found hint at techniques or skills that may be taught.

Original languageEnglish
Article number29
Number of pages7
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Arts
  • Character traits
  • Creativity
  • Habits
  • Originality
  • Science
  • Teaching
  • Teams


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