Discard these myths about creativity

November 14, 2017 Categorized in: Featured ArticlePersonal DevelopmentWork/Life Balance

Harvard University business professor Teresa Amabile wanted to debunk the myths about creativity in the workplace. For years, she ran a diary study of hundreds of employees “to look at creativity in the wild.”

Amabile uncovered these myths.

Myth 1: Creativity comes from creative types. Actually, anybody with normal intelligence can perform creative work; they just need skills and experience, open minds and the will to push past setbacks. Lacking encouragement, most people don’t come anywhere near reaching their creative potential.

Myth 2: Money provides an incentive for creativity. People need to be compensated fairly but, as long as that happens, they’re more concerned with engaging deeply in their work and making progress.

Myth 3: Time pressure fuels creativity. In reality, people are least creative when they fight the clock, because they have to fall back on basic skills and simply push out the work. It’s the opposite of engaging deeply, especially if distractions keep them from focusing.

Myth 4: Misery forces breakthroughs. Amabile’s study shows that creativity is positively associated with joy and love, and negatively associated with anger, fear and anxiety. People feel happiest after they come up with a creative idea, but they’re most likely to come up with that idea if they were happy the day before.

Myth 5: Competition beats collaboration. When people have to compete for recognition, they stop sharing information. On the flip side, the most creative teams have the self-confidence and trust in their teammates to work on ideas together.

Myth 6: A streamlined organization is a creative organization. During one company’s 25 percent downsizing in the course of the study, every stimulant to creativity sank like a stone. Everybody basically disengaged from his work.

Adapted from “HBS’s Teresa Amabile ‘tracks creativity in the wild,'” Harvard Gazette Archives.