Do we naturally fear creativity? My brother recently forwarded me an article that got me thinking on this subject. My first reaction to the topic was “of course not! People always talk about creativity and its importance!” But the more I read the article the more it got me thinking. Does our innate fear of change and uncertainty subconsciously override our need for creativity?
|photo by bricolage.108||via PhotoRee|
The article explains that there appears to be a paradox between humanity’s need to develop creative solutions to tricky problems and yet many of us are skeptical and dismissive of creative ideas that may be outside the parameters of the tried and true approaches to an issue. It sites a 2010 University of Pennsylvania study that notes four basic conclusions to explain this contradiction:
- Creative ideas are by definition novel, which can trigger feelings of uncertainty that make most people uncomfortable.
- People dismiss creative ideas in favor of those that are practical.
- Objective evidence shoring up the validity of a creative proposal does not motivate people to accept it.
- Anti-creativity bias is so subtle that people are unaware of it, which can interfere with their ability to recognize a creative idea.
I found this very interesting and it got me thinking back through my experiences. Creativity is something I have always considered one of my core characteristics in both my personal and professional self. The more I thought about this the more I started reliving meetings where a novel solution was proposed either by myself or someone else and it was usually quickly “poo-poo’ed” or politely “shelved” in favor of something more familiar. I remember how discouraging this was at the beginning of my career. You know how it is when you come fresh out of school and have all that knew knowledge and energy to tackle the world’s problems, only to have the “old guard” pat you on the back as if you and your “cute ideas” will soon “get it.” Over time I guess I just got wore down and now even find myself, at times, defaulting to a more practical and tested solution when presented with an untested creative idea.
So are we “hard-wired” this way, as the article describes, or is it more learned behavior? Based on my experience it seems more learned to me. As kids we come up with all sorts of novel ways to attack problems, but as we get older we get more risk averse and become more comfortable with tried and true approaches. It’s almost as if we lose the edge to be creative. Although a paradox still seems to exist. On one hand, as a society we say we value creativity, both personally and in the workplace, yet the first school programs to be cut are the ones that foster creativity, and the first poor sap in a business meeting with a new idea hits a brick wall of resistance. So do we really mean it? What do you think? Maybe what this country needs is a creative revolution!