It’s not easy being ‘creative’

Leonardo da Vinci was one of a kind. A great artist, he had a superb scientific mind, strong technical skills and a deep curiosity about fields as diverse as paleontology and civil engineering. In the drive for innovation supremacy, today’s corporations would hire Leonardo on the spot…maybe. Joint research by Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania suggests a subtle bias against creativity and creative people. “How is it that people say they want creativity but in reality often reject it?” says co-author Jack Goncalo, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at Cornell. The researchers found that even objective evidence supporting a creative proposal doesn’t motivate people to accept it; they’ll dismiss creative ideas in favour of the tried and true. Uncertainty drives the search for and generation of creative ideas, but “uncertainty also makes us less able to recognise creativity, perhaps when we need it most,” the researchers say. Leonardo, of course, wouldn’t have been deterred. Harvard researcher, Angela Duckworth, was intrigued by what qualities would most accurately predict greatness. While talent, intelligence and self-control are deemed important, she isolated two she thought might better predict outstanding success: the tendency to not abandon tasks from mere changeability, or in the face of obstacles. In other words, ‘grit’. With creativity seen as a critical CEO capability these days, the late Steve Jobs continues to inspire. Fired from his own company, he admitted to being devastated. “I was out — and very publicly out,” he recalled in a commencement speech at Stanford University. “What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.” Jobs’ comeback was one of the most memorable in modern business. As fellow dotcom pioneer, Jeff Bezos, asked: “Will you wilt under criticism or will you follow your convictions?”

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