2. ‘You have a lot of entrepreneurs who have ADD’
Saltz points to research including a 10-year study of 30 participants of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which attracts some of the most gifted writers from across the country. Researchers compared the Iowa writers to a group of 30 individuals who were the same age and had a similar IQ but who worked in professions that weren’t very creative.
Eighty percent of the writers reported that they had some form of mental illness, compared with just 30% of the other group, according to the study.
Another study, this one by researchers at Northwestern University (PDF), found a creative advantage to impulsivity, according to Saltz. People with low impulse control, as is the case with those who have attention deficit disorder, were more likely to act on their creative thoughts rather than just think about them.
ADD has to do with the “faulty connectivity” switch in the brain in terms of when to pay attention and when not to, said Saltz. That ability to turn on and off attention is “impaired” in someone with ADD, but because of that wiring, there is a “flow of ideas … a number of divergent ideas, unusual ideas” that can lead to creativity and innovation, she said.
“You have a high quotient in there of really creative, innovative ideas, which is why you have a lot of entrepreneurs who have ADD at a high level,” Saltz said. “Now, they may not be the best at grasping an idea and bringing it to fruition in an organized fashion, because that requires a different kind of wiring, and that’s why it might be great to pair someone in real life, in the business world for example, with ADD … with somebody who might be the mechanical producer.”