The two types of creative people – which are you?

When it comes to creativity, there are two types of people. Let’s call them Type X and Type Y.

Type Y: They don’t think they’re that creative. Or sometimes they do, sometimes they think they are a genius but then something happens. When they look back at the thing they’ve created they can only see fault in it. Sometimes they even destroy their own work, it’s never quite good enough. Sometimes they have so many ideas, but when it comes to taking action, they don’t know which to pursue. If they pick one it suddenly becomes less than it was, with all enthusiasm evaporated away. They always think that someone else is probably better at doing whatever it is they do. They try to keep that fact a secret, sometimes by hiding away, sometimes by hiding their work away, sometimes by not doing anything at all. And yet some days they are so prolific and everything they touch turns to gold.

If you asked them to write a book you’d get three half finished manuscripts and a list of further ideas as well as a treatment of how one of those ideas could be made into a film.

If you asked them to solve a problem you’d get a weird answer straight away, they’d start at the end and work backwards or their answer would raise more and bigger questions than the original problem.

Type Y people ask the question, ‘why?’. The Y stands for the openness of Yes. The symbol of the Y shows an upright line, splitting into two, reminding us that Type Y people increase yield by turning one thing into two things.

Type X: They think they’re highly creative. Or at least they tell everyone that. Or they will tell everyone that they’re as creative as they need to be. Or they’ll tell everyone that creativity isn’t really that important. If they doubt themselves and their work, they never show it. Their bravado increases the closer they get to Type Y people who they look down on. They show no pride in their work, but neither do they deride it. They have more interest in completion of an activity rather than the process itself even though they may have spent more time defining the process than the process needs to proceed.

If you asked them to write a book, you’d either get nothing, or a hundred bullet points in a list of unconnected data.

If you asked them to solve a problem it will take them ages while they go through a massive preamble of nitty-gritty that isn’t really relevant, but a straightforward obvious answer will appear on schedule.

Type X don’t ask questions. They make the close down statement of ‘No’ and put a cross to prove something has been judged wrong. The X can also be used to give approval, again as a binary ‘on-off’, black or white decision. The symbol of the X shows that two things can be brought together, processed and passed through their systems, still as two uncorrupted things. Type Y can be caretakers but generate no yield.

So which are you? Or which are you in certain situations? Have a think about the particular situations below and mark with an X or a Y.

When solving problems I am …..

In my relationships I am …..

If I have to make or build something, I am …..

At work I am mostly …..

At home I am mostly …..

I’m happiest working with people who are …..

When it comes to cooking, I’m …..

When I think about money, I’m …..

I’d like to be more like …..

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

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9 comments on “The two types of creative people – which are you?

  1. How is Type X even creative? Or are you being sardonic? Shudder. It describes to a T a former supervisor who just about killed any urge to be creative on the job. I am a fairly confident creative until overexposed to Type Xs.

    Found you via your guest post on Andrew Zahn’s blog. Your titles are all intriguing, and I’ll be coming back to read more!


  2. Just for Karen, I’ll fill in the rest of the Creative Types alphabet:

    A – They begin by considering two discrete ideas which increasingly have more in common with each other. Their ideas are bound together with a common resolution which enables them to arrive at a perfect fusion. When Benjamin Franklin invented bifocal glasses, to deal at once with both his near-sightedness and his far-sightedness, he displayed traits of Type A. However, his many of his inventions have also shown traits based on several of the other Types below – and this is a caveat to indicate that individuals may not exemplify any Type exclusively.

    B – They develop a specific area of interest. Their knowledge is extensive in their chosen field and they are often able to flip two ideas which eventually come together in a common purpose. Levi Strauss was an example of Type B. Working in his family’s dry goods business, he supplied canvas suitable for tents and wagons; he procured ‘serge de Nimes’ in France to make denim blue jeans – and made both these goods widely available during the 1853 California Gold Rush.

    C – They have an idea and stick with it until it runs out of track. Then they jump off. An example of Type C is Xavier Roberts. In 1976, he devised the Cabbage Patch Kids, which became one of the biggest fads of the 1980s. Roberts sold the mass-production rights to Coleco. As sales reduced, Coleco sold to Hasbro, who sold to Mattel. They are still sold today but the craze is over.

    D – They work within an area of knowledge and expertise. They identify a need and persist with their solution – sometimes for years – until it can be applied. A Type D example was Percy Shaw, the inventor of the Catseye Road Stud. Shaw had a path and driveway business and often saw the hazards of foggy road conditions. He invented the reflecting stud, patented it, and set up a manufacturing facility. But it was not until the Ministry of Transport mandated the use of his Catseye on British roads that his idea shone back for all to see.

    E – They work within a general area of speciality. Throughout their lives they use their knowledge and experience to develop different ideas within their field. An example of Type E was William Lear. In the field of electronics, he invented the 8-track stereo tape, he patented several car radios, and he designed the Lear Jet plane.

    F – They are very similar to Type E, differing perhaps in their desire to effect a mass impact through their creations. Type F creators often disseminate their ideas through business projects, using the practice of a ‘long tail’ marketing strategy, but also applying principles of mass production. A Type F example was Thomas Edison. Although he received patents for a total of 1093 inventions, his most well-known are the phonograph, the motion picture camera and the long-lasting incandescent light bulb.

    G – Although they usually adhere to a chosen field of expertise, Type G people have a basic trait in common with Type C. However, they often persist with an idea long past its sell-by date. Their projects can be at risk when they (at best) arrive at a cul-de-sac or (at worst) hit the buffers. An example of Type G is Clive Sinclair, who pushed on with the production of his Sinclair C5 electric vehicle in spite of clear indications that it would be a commercial failure.

    H – They have a strong area of research. Success in this area leads to them establishing another area running parallel to it, where a stream of practical applications can be developed. A Type H example is Stephanie Kwolek. Her invention of Kevlar, a synthetic material five times stronger than the same weight of steel, has been extensively used in bullet-proof vests. Other applications to date include underwater cables, brake linings, space vehicles, boats, parachutes, skis, and building materials.

    I – Type I people are not creative flat liners. Like Type H, they often work in a dedicated area, applying rigorous procedures. Their output often leads to a chain of development within specific research parameters. An example of Type I is the research chemist, Lloyd Conover. He developed the synthetic antibiotic tetracycline by chemically modifying a naturally produced drug, a process which has been used successfully to produce many other antibiotics.

    J – When scientist James T. Russell invented the CD in 1965, he was probably unaware that he was a Type J creative thinker. All Type J people pursue an idea relentlessly – but they arrive at a point where their idea runs out of steam, rendered obsolete by another idea – designed to serve a similar purpose – arriving faster on different, more connected, track.

    K – They work in two related disciplines, often drawing on their knowledge of both to unify them in a single composite idea. A Type K example was James Dewar, a chemist and a physicist. As a chemist, he was the first person to produce hydrogen in liquid form, and to solidify it. He also devised a machine for producing liquid oxygen in quantity. As a physicist, in seeking a way to store hot or cold substances, he found that a vacuum greatly reduces the transfer of heat, preventing temperature change. Working with materials such as glass and reflective metals, he produced the first vacuum flask.

    L – They work in a single chosen area of interest. Often after many years’ experience, they hit upon (sometimes by accident) an innovation. It becomes their ‘eureka’ moment. One example of Type L was food expert, Ruth Wakefield, the inventor of chocolate chip cookies.

    M – Type M creators produce their best results collaboratively. They work with at least one other person to complement their knowledge and skills. This fusion of talent can lead to a rich and memorable output of highly original ideas. Examples of Type M were John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The particular contribution of each to specific songs is generally assumed to be known – but neither person would claim a percentage of the input. In whatever way the songs came into being, they are Lennon – McCartney songs.

    N – Type N people also need to collaborate with at least one partner. However, each clearly identifies their own contribution to a project, and each is usually quite clear about what is required of the partner. Examples of Type N are Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. For each of their musicals, Tim Rice wrote the lyrics, Andrew Lloyd Webber the music.

    O – Combining their insight and skills with an expansive area of interests, they are entrepreneurs. They make judgments about ideas and they assess how to best promote and develop them through on-going action plans. An example of Type O is Richard Branson of the Virgin Group.

    P – Closely linked to Type D, they are inspired by the practical needs of their chosen occupation(s). They seize an opportunity to improve their own lives with a single idea that they develop tenaciously over some time. They make full use of their specialist knowledge. An example of a Type P creator was Bessie Nesmith. She was a secretary in Texas, USA, before the time of word processors. She invented Liquid Paper®, a quick-drying, white liquid, for correcting printed material. Bessie Nesmith was also an artist – and she based her invention on white tempura paint. Her son, Michael Nesmith, was a member of ‘60s pop group, The Monkees (a Type M, for sure.)

    Q – They are comparable to the entrepreneurs of Type O, due to the scale of interests they tend to develop. However, they invariably have a single starting interest, an ‘anchor’, to which they always return. A classic example of Type Q was Alexander Graham Bell. His anchor was the mechanics of speech. At the age of 16, he began his speech research. Later, he founded a school for the deaf and worked as a professor of vocal physiology. His experiments with transmitting sound through electricity led to his patent for the telephone. He engaged in medical research, and then returned to explore techniques on teaching the deaf – working with Helen Keller, among others.

    R – They are committed to a single area of interest and they are likely to use their ideas to benefit this area. However, they also believe, like Louis Pasteur, that ‘Chance favours the prepared mind.’ They are always willing to explore an idea’s potential beyond its intended influence. An example of a Type R creator was the pharmacist, John Pemberton. He devised a cure for headaches by mixing carbonated water with extracts of cola leaf and kola nut – and other (still secret) ingredients. After 8 years of modest sales as a medicine, Coca-Cola became a phenomenon when it was newly marketed worldwide as a refreshing soft drink.

    S – They are often lateral thinkers with a capacity to see things hidden in plain sight. They often pick up old ideas and give them a new twist. They are quite likely to rotate an idea 180° to achieve a successful outcome for an unplanned objective. An example of Type S is chemical engineer, Art Fry. Working at the 3M Company, he developed the Post-It Note from previous accidents during research on adhesives.

    T – They often fulfil an objective based upon a singular visionary idea – which gives support to a completely new industry or area of activity. Examples of Type T are Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web; and Clarence Birdseye, who invented, developed, and commercialized a method for quick-freezing food products in convenient packages without altering the original taste.

    U – Similar to Type H, they make full use of their experience in an area of work to create improvements in processes. Their ideas are often long-lasting and the results widely applicable. An example of Type U was Margaret Knight. While an employee in a paper bag factory, she invented a paper bag machine to make flat-bottomed paper bags – still in use today. She went on to receive some 26 patents for diverse items such as machinery for cutting shoe soles, and improvements to internal combustion engines.

    V – They come together in partnership to develop a single idea of common interest, often to achieve a specific objective. An example of Type V is Chris Haney and Scott Abbott. While playing Scrabble one evening, they had a whim to devise a new game. Within a few hours they had come up with the concept for what was to become Trivial Pursuit.

    W – They are pool their ideas in collaboration with others from a similar area of study. Although many are specialists, they are also good team players. An example of Type W is Leó Szilárd, Ernest Rutherford, Robert Oppenheimer, Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, et al. When Szilárd received a patent for a nuclear reactor, he became the catalyst for the Manhattan Project.

    X – See Ayd’s post above.

    Y – See Ayd’s post above.

    Z – They are very capable of performing as Type N – but they are usually much too tired.

    OK, perhaps this is somewhat ‘tongue-in-cheek’. But there are serious questions about language here. Could the same analysis be usefully conducted with a Mandarin Chinese or Punjabi alphabet? Does language generate thought, or thought generate language? Has, for example, the resistance to new vocabulary in Arabic over recent generations limited the imagination and creativity of Arabic speakers? How powerful in brain development is multi-lingual learning?

    Thank you, Ayd, for a great post.


    • Robert. You know I’m going to create a book from my best posts. Well, I now think I’ve enough of your great comments to compile a Robert Bell accompanying volume. Thanks so much for them all. All 41 of them.


  3. Such an accurate shot at artists, got me right on the head. Reading through this article made me feel like I was looking at myself in the miror..


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