5 things we can learn from Katherine Johnson about creativity

Katherine Johnson, a mathematician and pioneering African-American woman, made significant contributions to NASA’s space program during a time when segregation and discrimination were rampant. Her remarkable work as a “human computer” for NASA’s early space missions, including the Apollo moon landings, has only recently received widespread recognition.

Beyond her groundbreaking achievements, Katherine Johnson’s approach to creativity offers valuable lessons that can inspire us to unleash our own creative potential.

Let’s explore some key insights about creativity that we can learn from Katherine Johnson.

Break barriers and challenge norms

Katherine Johnson’s career was marked by her ability to break barriers and challenge norms. As an African-American woman working in a male-dominated field and during a time of deep racial segregation, Johnson faced tremendous challenges and discrimination. However, she refused to accept the status quo and instead pushed the boundaries of what was possible.

Her determination to challenge norms and overcome obstacles is a powerful lesson in creativity. It reminds us that creativity often requires stepping out of our comfort zones, challenging established norms and breaking barriers to unlock new possibilities.

Embrace precision and attention to detail

As a mathematician, Katherine Johnson’s work was characterized by precision and attention to detail. Her calculations were critical to the success of NASA’s space missions, where accuracy was paramount. Johnson’s meticulous approach to her work underscores the importance of precision and attention to detail in the creative process.

It highlights the need to carefully analyze and evaluate information, and to strive for accuracy and excellence in our creative endeavors.

Cultivate a growth mindset

Katherine Johnson embodied a growth mindset, which is the belief that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Despite many challenges and setbacks, Johnson remained resilient and persevered in his pursuit of excellence. She constantly sought to expand her knowledge, learn new skills and improve her craft.

Johnson’s growth mindset is a powerful lesson in creativity, reminding us of the importance of embracing challenges, learning from failure, and constantly evolving in our creative journey.

Collaborate and support others

Katherine Johnson understood the power of collaboration and supporting others. She worked closely with a team of mathematicians, engineers and astronauts at NASA, and her contributions were critical to the success of the space missions.

Johnson’s collaborative approach exemplifies the importance of teamwork, knowledge sharing and mutual support in fostering creativity. It emphasizes the need to collaborate with others, appreciate different perspectives, and build a supportive environment that nurtures creativity and innovation.

Believe in your abilities

Throughout her career, Katherine Johnson believed in her own abilities and the value of her contributions, despite facing systemic discrimination and prejudice. Her unwavering self-confidence and belief in her abilities served as a driving force behind her achievements.

Johnson’s confidence in his own abilities is a valuable lesson in creativity, reminding us of the importance of self-reliance, resilience, and perseverance in pursuing our creative endeavors.


In conclusion, Katherine Johnson’s approach to creativity gives us valuable insights into how we can unlock our own creative potential.

By breaking barriers and challenging norms, embracing precision and attention to detail, cultivating a growth mindset, collaborating and supporting others, and believing in our own abilities, we can draw inspiration from Katherine Johnson’s legacy and elevate our creativity to new heights.

Let us strive to be hidden figures of creativity in our own right, making meaningful contributions to our world, just as Katherine Johnson did with her groundbreaking work at NASA.