alt The elusive source of creative genius alt

Everyone can name a few innovation heroes. Most people reflexively think of modern business icons like Steve Jobs, Sir Richard Branson, or Jeff Bezos. Others recall the “industry builders” of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, or Walt Disney. Some think back to the “great men” of the Renaissance era—like da Vinci, Galileo, or Gutenberg. And of course there are countless other individuals, many of whom are not well known, who have nevertheless earned a place in history’s great “Innovation Hall of Fame.” So we all seem to know what an innovator is. But what’s been harder to define for thousands of years is how innovators actually come up with their ideas.

In ancient times, it was believed that creativity was not a human attribute at all, but solely a divine one. The Sumerians, who are credited with a large number of technological and social innovations at the very beginning of human history, believed that the many creative achievements of their civilization were not due to their own efforts, but rather were gifts from the gods. The Babylonians and Assyrians, who were direct descendants of the original Sumerian people and builders of mighty empires, believed in guardian angels that guided and blessed their ...

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