People Don’t Like Creativity? Tell Me About It!

I was interested to learn, via @martinertl, of an article on by Jessica Olien (@jessicaolien) entitled Inside the Box: People Actually Don’t Like Creativity (here). I recommend that you read the entire article, but here are some bits that caught my eye and seemed relevant to what I’m trying to do:

This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don’t actually like it. Studies confirm what many creative people have suspected all along: People are biased against creative thinking, despite all of their insistence otherwise.

[Barry Staw, a researcher at the University of California–Berkeley business school,] says most people are risk-averse. He refers to them as satisfiers. “As much as we celebrate independence in Western cultures, there is an awful lot of pressure to conform,” he says. Satisfiers avoid stirring things up, even if it means forsaking the truth or rejecting a good idea.

Most people agree that what distinguishes those who become famously creative is their resilience. While creativity at times is very rewarding, it is not about happiness. Staw says a successful creative person is someone “who can survive conformity pressures and be impervious to social pressure.”

Now some of you are saying to yourselves, What a egomaniac! What a cry-baby! I’m willing to cop to a healthy self-regard, but otherwise I do think this article applies to what I do. I’m making good progress, but I still encounter plenty of resistance, and I see no basis for thinking that it has anything to do with shortcomings in what I have to offer.

Of course, there’s nothing I can do about this other than persevere, and I accept that with equanimity. But I thought it worth identifying the dynamic involved.

Posted in Process | 3 Comments

  • Isaiah Cooper

    As a business attorney who comes from a creative background (as a professional trombonist and composer) I would have to agree. I stress my ability to be able to approach problems creatively in my marketing. However, in light of this article, I wonder if that is actually a good approach . . . .

    • AWrightBurkeMPhil

      Two adages come to mind: Don Aslett’s “Creativity is Productivity” and Madison Avenue’s “If it doesn’t sell toothpaste, it’s not creative.”

      Persuasion in all its forms is one of the magic arts. If you are good, you can sell Novelty as Tradition. I saw the young Stacy Keach play Falstaff. A thin man can play a fat man if he’s a good actor. A great actor can play two roles at the same time: a drunk and a tall, invisible rabbit named Harvey: “As you can see, Harvey’s a pooka.”

      If Ken were even more of a magician than he is, he’d have Big Law convinced by now that overhauling contract language is as traditional as a harvest festival.

      • Ken Adams

        “Creativity” is a slippery word. Use of “creative” in the advertising industry is very different from the usual sense of the word.

        And more generally, I’m aware that “People be hatin on creativity!” could become a convenient excuse for all sorts of no-hopers.