Counter the creativity bias

We crave it, we fear it, and we certainly know we need it. Yet creativity remains an elusive element in too many workplace cultures, the missing link in the innovation supply chain. When it comes to creativity, it seems we’re highly ambivalent, according to research to be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science. “How is it that people say they want creativity but in reality often reject it?” asks Jack Goncalo, an organisational behaviour expert at Cornell University and co-author of the research. The study found a paradoxical bias against creativity even where it was the stated goal. Most people viewed creativity as an asset – until they came across a creative idea. That’s because creativity not only reveals new perspectives, it promotes a sense of uncertainty, which makes many people uncomfortable. No surprise, concurs creativity author, Matthew May, who argues nonetheless that there’s a major shift under way, driven by the current business environment and a deeper search for meaning. “I get a sense that people need some way to think about their work, a new perspective that enables them to manage the mounting tension between their ability to innovate and the ever-increasing demands placed on them,” May says. “They need a way to get a better sense of control over their work and life amidst uncertainty and rapid change.” How to achieve this? “You have no choice other than to get more creative, more resourceful,” he says. “Work like an artist. Work like a scientist. Or, more accurately, a business artist or business scientist.” The drive to do more with less, to overcome resistance and setbacks, should promote creativity, he says. “A block of marble, a small canvas, or eight basic notes in music has never stifled creativity. Quite the opposite.”

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