The Creativity Debate

Talent or Practice – What Matters More?

A variety of perspectives on the origins of greatness.

Turtle or Hare?

Luis A. Gutierrez

Luis A. Gutierrez is CEO and Founder of Dutz Technologies, LLC, publisher of based in San Francisco California. AppPicker is a leading provider of news, reviews and information about iPhone, iPad and Mac apps. Prior to staring AppPicker, Luis worked at Fisher Investments for nearly 14 years running the client services and sales operations departments for the high net worth Private Client Group and also spearheaded the firm’s Mergers & Acquisitions practice. He is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley.

The answer to what is a more important contributor to creativity- talent or practice- is it depends on the person. A naturally talented person who never lifts a finger to shine the light of day upon their intrinsic magic starves creativity of expression. A diligent practitioner of anything will most certainly become a better and potentially superior craftsperson but this does not undeniably and inevitably lead to innovation. The fact is talent and practice must both be present, even in extremely lopsided quantities, for creativity to have the chance to be manufactured. Creativity is not born from singular spontaneous combustion but rather from the purposeful mixture of two essential and co-dependent ingredients.


If both talent and practice are present, which factor is more important to the emergence of creativity?  Let’s take a look. Which of the following two people will maximize creativity: (a) Person Hare comprised of 99% talent and 1% practice or (b) Person Turtle comprised of 99% practice and 1% talent? Quantitatively, Person Turtle will generate more ideas but their overall quality will be at best average and potentially none may be characterized as creative. Any big, innovate ideas qualifying as creative will be the result of random, but hard earned, luck. Qualitatively, Person Hare’s ideas will be superb although their quantity will be limited. Nonetheless, one can rest assured Person Hare’s ideas will be creative. 


Person Hare can be depended on to be creative. That is, Person Hare will generate creative ideas but lack of effort acts as a retardant to predictability. Person Turtle, on the other hand, can not be depended on to generate any ideas considered creative. 


Talent begets creativity in the presence of even infinitesimal traces of practice. Creativity can be sharpened, magnified and expanded in conjunction with increased levels of practice but it only needs minuscule amounts of it to exist. Talent can be thought of as a big ball of shining light trapped in a room needing only the smallest of holes to escape and be seen. If the hole is there, the shining light will seep through and emerge as creativity.


Practice, on the other hand, has the potential to transform itself into creativity but the presence of talent does not assure this outcome. Practice can be thought of as a small ball of light bouncing around in a room with only one small hole to squeeze through to escape and thus transform itself into creativity. As sad as this may seem, this small ball of light may bounce millions of times but remain trapped in the room forever and never escape to become a creative force. 

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