Creative Conceptualist or Experimentalist?Would you consider yourself more of a Picasso or a Cézanne? More of an Orson Welles or Alfred Hitchcock? These are questions that author, David Galenson, asks in his book, Old Masters and Young Geniuses.

Galenson started questioning the idea of creativity after purchasing a painting for, what an educated friend thought, was more than the actual value of the art. This sent Galenson on a quest to learn about creative geniuses and when did they become famous and their work become of value. An economics historian by profession, David started studying the great artistic and creative minds of world history. His quest led him to unexpected data results.
Creative Conceptualist or Experimentalist?

There’s a type of people, “conceptual innovators,” as Galenson calls them, make bold, dramatic leaps in their disciplines. They do their breakthrough work when they are young.

Then there’s a second character type, someone who’s just as significant but trudging by comparison. Galenson calls this group “experimental innovators.” [Those] who proceed by a lifetime of trial and error and thus do their important work much later in their careers. (WIRED Magazine – 07/2006)

My thought was that the early success of innovators caused them to coast later in life through the accolades of their endeavors. But Galenson’s research seemed to feature more on character qualities inherent in people, specifically creative types.

The hallmark of the conceptualists is certainty. They know what they want. They know when they’ve created it. [While on the other hand] experimentalists never know when their work is finished.

Galenson has recognized the limits of his theory. His updated thoughts are captured in his new book. He now talks of a continuum with extreme conceptualists on one end and extreme experimentalists on the other.

Is it possible to move from one camp into another? Sure. But, Galenson will tell you from his research that it is not often or easy.

What about you? Are you a conceptualist or an experimentalist? Below are listed some famous names from history. See who you relate to… have fun!

CONCEPTUALISTS   EXPERIMENTALISTS
NAME AGE   NAME AGE
Maya Lin 23   Mark Twain 50
Pablo Picasso 26   Ludwig Van Beethoven 54
Orson Wells 26   Alfred Hitchcock 59
F. Scott Fitzgerald 29   Paul Cézanne 64
Wolfgang Mozart 30   Frank Lloyd Wright 70

Oh, by the way, I am an experimentalist (in case you were wondering).