Are some people more creative than others?

By Jamie Bell, 8 December 2021 | 5 mins read

When I was Creative Partner at VCCP I was asked to write a white paper for my department about how ideas happen. And by happen I mean digging down into the proven science about how the brain actually works, what brain states allow ideas to flow, and how to get into that headspace more often to have the best ideas possible.

When I moved to OMD this handbook contributed to a handy guide for everyone in the OMD family, all 12,000 of them, across 100 countries, to help them all create the perfect environment and working processes to make big ideas happen.

Since joining The Maverick Group I have been updating the Creative Thinkers Handbook to make it a little bit more, well,… Maverick. And I will be sharing the thinking within the guidebook here on the ELECTRIC website in bite-sized chunks over the coming months.

So we’ll kick off with one the most important questions that people ask:


Many people think you’re either a creative person or you’re not.

Some people are naturals when it comes to having ideas, with their ability to think original wired deep into their DNA, but creativity is a muscle that can be exercised and improved upon if you’re willing to give it a go.

Renowned Italian philosopher Pareto recognised that people fall into two neurological camps. The ‘Speculator’ and the ‘Rentier’.

Naturally creative people, songwriters, Creatives, Artists, inventors, tech entrepreneurs, they all fall in the ‘Speculator’ camp, constantly pre-occupied with new ideas and new combinations. Inquisitive by nature, Speculators are people who will never be happy with the norm and are always looking for a better solution, a fresh perspective or a new idea. Speculators crave originality.

Legendary ‘Speculator’ and creative pioneer Bill Bernbach described it this way: “Rules are what the artist breaks: because the memorable never emerged from a formula”.

Rentier meaning ‘Deliverer’ (the actual translation is ‘Bag Carrier’, but Deliverer is a little less blunt). The Rentier is the opposite of the Speculator. But entirely necessary for the Speculator function.

They are practical, unoriginal, they like routine and sticking to formula. They are safe and unimaginative. They crave the status quo because they are the status quo. Sensible to the core. They make sure the job gets done.

But not everyone picking up a gold lion at the Palais De Festivals is born a speculative superhuman.

Studies show we possess only 1/3 of our ability to be creative comes from genetics. The rest we learn because our brains are made to be remade. Which means we are one third nature, two thirds nurture. With the right conditioning and regular behaviours, we can re-wire creativity into our brains.

In other words, even the most middle-of-the-road Rentier can become at least a little bit Speculator with the right stimulus and applied techniques.

We can all, and should all, be able to have ideas. Because ideas are a learnable skill. Which is good to know because creativity is relevant to everyone from the front desk to the corner office.

Over the coming weeks we will explore ways to empower you to be a creative thinker, every day. To grow, experiment, take risks, break rules, make mistakes, and enjoy doing it. So, watch this space.