From the Freakonomics Blog comes news of a Cornell study titled, “The Bias Against Creativity: Why People Desire But Reject Creative Ideas.” Here’s an abstract of the study:
People often reject creative ideas even when espousing creativity as a desired goal. To explain this paradox, we propose that people can hold a bias against creativity that is not necessarily overt, and which is activated when people experience a motivation to reduce uncertainty. In two studies, we measure and manipulate uncertainty using different methods including: discrete uncertainty feelings, and an uncertainty reduction prime. The results of both studies demonstrated a negative bias toward creativity (relative to practicality) when participants experienced uncertainty. Furthermore, the bias against creativity interfered with participants’ ability to recognize a creative idea. These results reveal a concealed barrier that creative actors may face as they attempt to gain acceptance for their novel ideas.
The authors of the study propose that we should worry less about generating creative ideas and more about helping institutions to recognize and accept creativity. For many working in law firms — especially the marketing and business development folks — this will ring true.
In my work, I’ve found it isn’t enough to give people “creative” ideas. Too often, a great idea is met with a “We can’t do that here,” or “That will never work,” instead of a “Let’s try it!” It is far better to help people be creative as they develop relevant, innovative ideas on their own, and then giving them a framework and timeline for implementing