We have a creativity problem

To explore the subjects’ explicit views, the researchers asked them to complete a survey assessing their feelings about ideas that were c...


To explore the subjects’ explicit views, the researchers asked them to complete a survey assessing their feelings about ideas that were considered ‘new’, ‘inventive’ and ‘original’. Subjects expressed positive associations with these words.

To elicit the subjects’ most hidden feelings, the researchers used a clever computer program known as the Implicit Association Test. It works by measuring the reaction time of a study subject to pairs of ideas presented on a screen.

For example, subjects were presented with survey words that suggested creativity, and their opposites (“practical”, “helpful”), as well as words with positive associations (“sunshine”, “laugh”, “paradise”, “peace”.”) and negative associations (“poison”, “agony”, “hell”, “vomit”).

This time, the researchers found a significant difference in the results: Both groups expressed positive associations with words like “convenient” and “helpful,” but the group that was primed felt uncertain (because members didn’t didn’t know if they would receive a bonus) expressed more negative associations with words suggesting creativity.

The reasons for this implicit bias against creativity can be attributed to the inherently disruptive nature of new and original creations. Creativity means change, without the certainty of desirable results.

“We implicitly believe that the status quo is safe,” said Jennifer Mueller, professor of management at the University of San Diego and lead author of the 2012 article on Bias Against Creativity. Dr Mueller, an expert in the science of creativity, said the article arose in part from observing how business leaders profess to want creativity and then reflexively reject new ideas.

“Leaders will say, ‘We’re innovative,’ and employees will say, ‘Here’s an idea,’ and the idea goes nowhere,” said Dr. Mueller. “So the employees are angry.”

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We have a creativity problem
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