Imitation - the Cornerstone of Creativity

Many usually attribute negative connotations to imitation. Without really understanding the role it plays in our society, our learning process, and our development of creativity.


According to Stefan Leijnen and Liane Gabora, Social scientists at the University of British Columbia in Canada created a model which simulates how ideas spread; creative solutions can only spread if they are adopted by other individuals. Imitators play a key role in spreading successful strategies to other generations.

In addition, Leijnen and Gabora find out that to maximize the benefits of creativity in our society, no more than 30% of people should create while the rest imitates. In other words, we should spend less than 50% of our time being creative.

Many people believe that creativity cannot be learned is inherent in each one of us. Nevertheless, they are wrong. As well as many skills creativity can be learned and developed. How do you learn?

The Social Learning Theory (Bandura) states that people learn through observing others’ behavior, attitudes, and outcomes of those behaviors. Likewise, Yale University researchers find out that imitation is one of the primary ways that children, and adults, learn what to do. Moreover, while learning something new, people over-imitate others in the process of learning, even if they know there are better ways to achieve something. The role of imitation in our learning process can also be supported by the research of Judith Harris on tribal societies. She concluded that imitation is our natural way of learning.

“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.” Dali. The problem reversal technique (a creativity technique) states that creativity is the result of fully understanding a concept. As Lao-tzu would say, "To lead, one must follow." For example, many business people read the biographies of successful business leaders, to learn how they succeed. Writers read and analyze the works of great writers. Frank Stella, an American painter, said: "One learns about painting by looking at and imitating other painters." Finally, those who want to develop their creativity; read creativity techniques and imitate the processes that have worked for others until they find the method that best suits them, or they are able to develop their own method.

While mere imitation and repetition do not generate innovation, their use encourages the development of skills and the transmission of knowledge through generations, which can give birth to creativity.

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