In David Brooks’s recent op-ed in the New York Times entitled “The Creative Climate”, he says that creative people “cultivate…the ability to hold two opposing ideas at the same time.” But I think this isn’t quite right. I don’t think creativity is a result of holding two opposing ideas, but rather of seeing the similarity between two seemingly opposed ideas. This might be a minor distinction, but I think it’s an important one.
If two ideas are actually opposed, with no way to reconcile them, then holding both is not creative, it is foolish. What is creative is taking two ideas that most other people see as opposed and showing how they can be integrated. Maybe Mr. Brooks and Roger Martin, whom he cites in that same sentence, would agree with me, and they were just using sloppy language. But I thought it was worth pointing out nonetheless.