BY KIM BELLARD
America loves innovation. We prize creativity. We honor inventors. We are the nation of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Jonas Salk, Steve Jobs, and Stephen Spielberg, to name a few luminaries. Silicon Valley is the center of the tech world, Hollywood sets the cultural tone for the world, and Wall Street is preeminent in the financial world. Our intellectual property protection for all that innovation is the envy of the world.
But, as it turns out, maybe not so much. If there’s any doubt, just look at our healthcare system.
Matt Richtel writes in The New York Times “We Have a Creativity Problem.” He reports on research from Katz, et. alia that analyzes not just what we say about creative people, but our implicit impressions and biases about them. Long story short, we may say people are creative but that doesn’t mean we like them or would want to hire them, and how creative we think they depend on what they are creative about.
“People actually have strong associations between the concept of creativity and other negative associations like vomit and poison,” Jack Goncalo, a business professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the lead author on the new study, told Mr. Richtel.
Vomit and poison?
A previous (2012) study by the same team focused on why we say we value creativity but often reject creative ideas. “We have an implicit belief the status quo is safe,” Jennifer Mueller, a professor at the University of San Diego and a lead author on the 2012 paper, told Mr. Richtel. “Novel ideas have almost no upside for a middle manager — almost none, The goal of a middle manager is meeting metrics of an existing paradigm.”
You’ve been there. You’ve seen that. You’ve probably blocked a few creative ideas yourself.
The 2012 research pointed out: “Our findings imply a deep irony. Prior research shows that uncertainty spurs the search for and generation of creative ideas, yet our findings reveal that uncertainty also makes us less able to recognize creativity, perhaps when we need it most. Moreover, “people may be reluctant to admit that they do not want creativity; hence, the bias against creativity may be particularly slippery to diagnose.”
In the new study, participants were given two identical descriptions of a potential job candidate, except that one of the candidates had demonstrated creativity in designing running shoes, but the other in designing sex toys (the researchers note: “the pornography industry plays a significant role in the refinement, commercialization, and broad dissemination of innovative new technologies”). The participants explicitly rated the latter candidate as less creative, although their implicit ratings showed equal ratings.
The researchers concluded:
Collectively, the findings strongly support our contention that implicit impressions of creativity can readily form, be differentiated from a traditional explicit measure, and uniquely predict downstream judgment, such as hiring decisions, that might be relevant in an organizational context.
This matters, they say, because: “the findings of study 4 seem to square with real world examples of highly creative people who were ignored until well after their death because their work was too controversial in its time to be recognized as a creative contribution…”
Umm, anyone remember Ignaz Semmelweis?Continue reading…