How Music Could Make You a Rocket Scientist

However, the MSU researchers found a strong correlation between numerous creative fields and later success. Some 41.9 percent of those who had worked with metal, for example, were more likely to end up holding patents than those who had never studied metal work.

Others excelled because they had studied ceramics, photography, wood working, electronics, computers, architecture, dancing, acting, creative writing, and so forth.

In other words, any exposure to the arts made a huge difference.

"High achievers in general, and those individuals most likely to found companies and make inventions in particular, have acquired a set of arts and crafts skills to which the average person is never even exposed," the study notes.

Why should working with metal or clay help a person found a company later in life? The researchers suggest that arts and crafts help kids and adults think "out of the box."

A lot of working with hands amounts mostly to figuring out how to solve problems -- how do you make a piece of wood bend the way you want it to -- and that can translate into finding a way to do something that no one else has figured out.

When asked to describe the value of engaging in arts and crafts, a couple of the participants put it this way:

"Quilting is a great way to use creativity and analytical thinking to solve problems and create something that is aesthetically appealing. It helps me lower my stress level, and likely improves my creativity in my current vocation," said one.

"General creativity and ability to consider multiple possibilities when troubleshooting. Able to get out of the 'this is the way we've always done it' rut," said another.

"The skills you learn from taking things apart and putting them back together translates into how you look at a product and how it can be improved," said Eileen Roraback of MSU's Center for Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities, a member of the research team.

Co-authors Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein, who have studied the relationship between the creative arts and scientific success for years, have found that the avocations persons choose can play a dramatic role throughout their lives.

After studying many scientists they reached this conclusion: "The most eminent and innovative among them are significantly more likely to engage in arts and crafts avocations" than the average Joe.

The bottom line, according to the researchers, is if you want to see this country rebound from its recession and lead the world in innovation, don't just look at Wall Street. Look at the ceramics lab as well.

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