What is the relationship between intelligence and creativity? originally appeared on Quora – the knowledge sharing network where questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Tristan Kromer. He builds stuff and blogs at GrasshopperHerder.com

There is a positive (although indirect) feedback loop.

Creativity = More Ideas
If you buy into The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson, truly creative people don’t come up with a greater percentage of good ideas, they simply come up with more of them and discard the bad ones.

More Ideas = Better Problem Solving
Looked at this way, a more creative problem solver will at the very least appear more intelligent as a better problem solver because he/she has more chance to get it right. If the chances of coming up with a good solution are 10%, then the person that comes up with ten ideas has a distinct advantage versus a person who comes up with one or two ideas.

If you measure intelligence by the ability to solve problems, then creativity may be a prerequisite.

Intelligence = Better Filtering of Poor Ideas
Furthermore, the filtering mechanism to discard poor ideas comes down to a form of abstract intelligence. That is to say, given a problem X, come up with ten solutions A, B…J, an individual with a high level of abstract intelligence will be able to recognize which solutions hold the most promise without resorting to trial and error and return ‘G’ as the correct result. Therefore a less intelligent but highly creative person may return the right solution, but may need more physical trials to get there.

(I should note, this could in theory make someone appear less creative since while an unintelligent person may display a variety of poor ideas while trying to solve a problem, and intelligent person may only outwardly present one idea…the right one)

Intelligence -> Learning -> Creativity
Finally, (this is very dependent on your definition of intelligence) intelligence is positively correlated to an ability and an active interest in learning. This leads to a greater exposure to a variety of different concepts and possibly different fields of study. Going back to Johansson, creativity is greatly enhanced by exposure to a  wider variety of ideas, preferably from different domains of knowledge. So in addition to helping sort through ideas to find the right one, intelligence can lead to greater exposure of ideas, and thus more creativity.

IDEO approaches intelligence and creativity from a “design thinking” perspective. 

IDEO is a global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organizations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow.

Here is the company’s view on the approach to innovation, taken from the About page of IDEO’s website:

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” —Tim Brown, president and CEO

Thinking like a designer can transform the way organizations develop products, services, processes, and strategy. This approach, which IDEO calls design thinking, brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It also allows people who aren’t trained as designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of challenges.

Design thinking is a deeply human process that taps into abilities we all have but get overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. It relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that are emotionally meaningful as well as functional, and to express ourselves through means beyond words or symbols. Nobody wants to run an organization on feeling, intuition, and inspiration, but an over-reliance on the rational and the analytical can be just as risky. Design thinking provides an integrated third way.

The design thinking process is best thought of as a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps. There are three spaces to keep in mind: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. Inspiration is the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions. Ideation is the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas. Implementation is the path that leads from the project stage into people’s lives.

Under this system, IDEO uses both analytical tools and generative techniques to help clients see how their new or existing operations could look in the future — and build road maps for getting there. Our methods include business model prototyping, data visualization, innovation strategy, organizational design, qualitative and quantitative research, and IP liberation.

All of IDEO’s work is done in consideration of the capabilities of our clients and the needs of their customers. As we iterate toward a final solution, we assess and reassess our designs. Our goal is to deliver appropriate, actionable, and tangible strategies. The result: new, innovative avenues for growth that are grounded in business viability and market desirability.