Ancient Creativity & Innovation Practices That Can Benefit Us Today

Definition of Creativity and Innovation

In common parlance, most people use the words innovation and creativity interchangeably. However, whereas creativity refers to the process of coming up with brilliant ideas, innovation is the bringing of these ideas to actualization.

Consider the broader definitions of the two terms below:

a) Creativity

Creativity is the generation of new, never-before thought of, ideas by approaching existing practices or problems in imaginative ways. Creativity connects to innovation in the sense that the latter is the taking of such new ideas and turning them into actionable offerings.

b) Innovation

On the other hand, innovation refers to measurable actions and tangible products that have been properly tested and found to work in the real world.

To this end, creativity is subjective and murkier. It is also harder to measure and define. Overall, creativity relates to ideas while innovation is a combination of such ideas with action to produce desirable results. That said, you need creativity to develop innovation.


History and Background of Greek Innovation

There are many instances of ancient creativity and innovation practices that can benefit us today. In the Greek scenario, findings range from science and mathematics to geography and astronomy – all of them showing highly developed creative thinking on the part of Ancient Greeks.

Scientific exploration in Ancient Greece dates as far back as the 6th Century BCE. The civilization and its foremost thinkers contributed tons of knowledge to our modern world. As a result, many ancient Greeks are now the Fathers of Zoology, Medicine, and Science.

Consider the following instances of Greek innovation that are still applicable today:

  1. Philosophy

Ancient Greece pulls the entire world from the shroud of magic and superstition. The Egyptians, for instance, believed that the Nile only rose and flooded making the soil fertile and dark only when the Pharaoh commanded it to do so.

The Greeks, on the other hand, took a different approach to philosophy. Their creative thinking and deductive reasoning developed the subject as a way to better understand the nature of the world and beings around them.

Early Greek philosophers also doubled up as scientists. They studied and observed the known world, the mountains, seas, the earth, astral phenomena, planetary motion, and the solar system.

Their philosophy had a foundation on observation and reasoning, eventually shaping western philosophical tradition. Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates all provided theories that were later used to teach Rome and subsequent cultures.

  1. Cartography

Cartography refers to the practice and study of map making. Since the Greeks introduced it, cartography has shaped navigation and travel. Although ancient Babylon provides the earliest known evidence of the subject, it was the ancient Greeks who shone a new light to cartography and trumped its prior limitations.

Anaximander, a pioneering cartographer, created the first map of the world. He also contributed immensely to geography and astronomy. His map presented the inhabited regions known then. Today, this science has evolved into GPS technology and Google Maps – used to accurately calculate distances, pinpoint exact locations, and direct people on the commute.

  1. Modern Science

Given the evidence, it is clear that the ancient Greeks also made remarkable contributions in various scientific subjects. They broke all stereotypes in the fields of physics, mathematics, biology, astronomy, and medicine. Is it any wonder that most of the symbols used in higher math and physics equations come from the ancient Greek alphabet?

Aristotle, for instance, originated the idea of Earth being spherical. Known as the Father of Zoology, he was also the first man to classify animals. Theophrastus, on the other hand, was the first botanist.

Pythagoras joins this list due to the advances he made in geometry and philosophy. His contemporary, Archimedes, discovered the idea that submerging solid objects displace an amount of fluid matching the exact weight of the object.

Archimedes was also among the first inventors to apply his mathematical discoveries to physical phenomena. Created with the founding of statics and hydrostatics, he explained the principle of the lever. Further, he designed such innovative machines as defensive war machines, compound pulleys, and the screw pump (which is still used today to pump granulated solids such as grain and coal, and liquids).


Lessons in Innovation and Creativity from the Ancients 

To think creativity and be innovative in action, consider the following tips and tricks embodied by various individuals in ancient societies:

a) Mindfulness Meditation

The greatest innovators and creatives of all time – both from ancient civilizations and more modern ages – were highly reflective. They were able accessed their innate genius through mindful meditation and creative thinking.

Picture Isaac Newton sitting under a tree, just thinking when an idea pops into his head in the form of an apple. From this scenario, he comes up with gravity, something no one had ever thought before.

Learning how to meditate, quiet the mind, and reflect on the world around you will improve your creativity and innovation.

b) The Arts

Man, by his very nature, is artistic. From the cave drawings of the Stone Age to the elaborate sculptures of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, down to the Renaissance and the architectural beauty of Dubai, the arts have sparked creative genius and led to revolutionary innovation.

Simply dabbling in the arts – with no specific intention or goal – will awaken your ability to see life through a clear mind, improved curiosity, and greater openness. You will also get to jog those areas of the brain typically associated with compassion, optimism, and well-being.

c) Nature

The ancients had nothing but nature to fall back on. By observing life (or lack thereof) in its natural state, they were able to cultivate a sense of infinity and vitality. As a result, their core creativity led to the extraordinary innovations lasting thousands of years and which we have inherited.

Look at the sky, the leaves on a swaying branch, and animals in their natural habitat. You will undoubtedly feel that sense of spaciousness and vastness. Your experience of being a part of something infinitely larger will compel you to find intelligent solutions to everyday problems –the core of innovation.

d) Sacred Spaces

Such sacred spaces as group ritual sites, temples, and churches have features that evoke a deep sense of spirituality only available to higher forms of life.

Connecting to divine nature will provide a sense of connection and spaciousness, as well as engender a relationship with the creative life-supporting forces of our vast universe. In the process, you will be better placed to access your core innovativeness all to make a contribution to creation.

e) Creative Stimulation

The creative aspects of the psyche can be stimulated and activated into innovation. It is for this reason that museum visits, college enrollment, concert attendance, and observance of national monuments continue soaring. All these places and objects open up the vital forces inside us, mingling them with human passions to spark creativity.


Keys to Increasing Innovation and Creativity

So, what are some strategies that you can adopt to boost your ability to create and innovate? Individuals from ancient times took the time to take in everything and sharpen their mental blades. Here’s how they did it:

i) Knowledge

First, they understood that innovation derived from knowledge. The continuous expansion of owns knowledge base improves the creativity and innovation of the human mind.

ii) Perceptions

Like other facets of human life, perceptions limit or expand reasoning. The way you perceive the world and judge it will determine your overall level of creativeness.

iii) Imagery

You can succeed by practicing guided imagery to actualize certain concepts.

iv) Incubation

It also helps to allow your ideas time to incubate naturally by breaking away from them. For instance, while working on big projects, consider taking a break to ride away or go for a swim. Your brain will shift into another space. When you come back, you will be in a more creative and innovative place mentally.

v) Experience

Exposure through experience adds new ideas that your subconscious would never have considered. Seeking out new experiences will broaden your mental portfolio.

vi) Patterns

Problems come in patterns. When you recognize a pattern and deflect from being a part of it, you will be removed from the problem and be able to come up with creative and innovative solutions to it.

vii) Action

All of the above tips will prove useless if you are continuously creation new solutions. Therefore, to succeed, you must break away from idea generation and work on the execution of every actionable thought to bring it to life.


Examples of Creative & Innovative Applications

That said, there are many examples of creative and innovative applications that are of great note today. From the wheel right up to the smartphone, these applications have revolutionized how people communicate, travel, and relate to each other.

They include, but are not limited to:

  1. The Smartphone

Most people today – particularly millennials – use their smartphones to do most things. From communicating via email and social media to using Google Map and Uber to travel, the smartphone has truly revolutionized the solution of most of the problems previously deemed untenable.

  1. The Telephone

Johann Philipp Reis invented the telephone to transmit sound from one location to another. The first commercially-successful telephone, on the other hand, was invented by Alexander Graham Bell.

  1. Movable Type

Movable type was created way before Gutenberg’s printing press by the Chinese. Gutenberg used antimony, lead, tin, and special inks to mass-produce books and literature. This innovation eventually resulted in the Information Age as we know it today.

  1. Paper

The Chinese used paper as far back as 105 CE. Later, Ancient Egypt and Greece adopted the technology with papyrus scrolls and parchment. Today, paper is used to create books – one of the most powerful sources of actual, tangible, information.

  1. Law

In the late 1700 BCEs, Hammurabi wrote down a formalized legal code to help his people understand societal norms. Other ancient examples of written law include Egypt’s Book of the Dead, Israel’s Ten Commandments, Rome’s Twelve Tables, and the Biblical Book of Leviticus.

These early legal systems have been passed down to us for use in tackling dispute resolution and improve our understanding of norms and customs.

  1. Money

Today, we have bitcoin and blockchain technology – seemingly revolutionary currencies in the modern age. However, human societies only fell into formation after money was first used by Sumerians to ease the exchange of goods and commerce.

  1. The Wheel

The wheel came about at some point between 3300 and 3500 BCE. Ancient civilizations used the wheel as a primary mode of transportation. Today, the wheel has been expanded into wind turbines and reduced in size as in the tiny mechanisms working your watch.

  1. The Ship

Although we now have spaceships that transverse the atmosphere, the earliest forms of the ships included ancient Egypt’s wooden sailboats, sailing ships from Greece and Phoenicia, and the steamship in the 19th century.

  1. Others

Many other instances of innovation from the ancient Greek and other civilizations are still in use today. These include the mathematics of Pythagoras, applied in constructing places of worship – such as in the use of light and music in temples, as well as the Golden Mean in the architecture of consecrated Churches.


There are many other instances of ancient creativity and innovation practices that can benefit us today. Understanding the thought processes and deliberate actions of ancient civilizations and the individuals within them is a good reference point to understand how the world works, and the collective future of humanity.

Creative toning will lead to breakthroughs in education, parenting, and human interactions. It will also make you fully engage and feel vitalized in the daily chores of life.

To find true enlightenment, you must carry water and chop wood – at least according to Buddha. His view was that the deepest, most purposeful life is not an atypical dedication to extraordinary endeavors and causes. Rather, a simple life with greater openness and awareness to both the unknown and the unknown is key to creative genius and innovative application.

In the same light, you must be passionate about discovery, the embrace of the strange and new, and the understanding of innate human nature. By so doing, you will be able to transform your life as well as those around you in ways never before thought possible. You will also find the mental fortitude to drift from resistance and fear towards creativity and innovativeness.

Over and above everything else, the ancients led a creative life by unplugging from what mattered most to them. To emulate their ways, the essence of genius lies in the connection of dots as in the ability to disconnect – at least for a while.

Read more "Ancient Creativity & Innovation Practices That Can Benefit Us Today"