Biased against Creativity — Really?

Image Credit: METROPOLIS directed by Fritz Lang 1927
Image Credit: METROPOLIS directed by Fritz Lang, 1927…………………..
Dr. G. reporting on Spacious Minds….
In a soon to be published study in the journal PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE, university researchers of organizational behavior found that despite all of the ROI talk on valuing creativity — — how many times have you forwarded a link to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk?  — people show a curious bias against “creative ideas.”  Dig a bit more deeply into the study and you’ll discover it’s not so much creative ideas themselves as the feelings of uncertainty they arouse.  That’s right, not knowing what’s in store raises the levels of anxiety, even if unconsciously so.  (I’ll be curious to see if the subjects were college students or people involved in organizational / corporate structures.)


My own thinking around uncertainty and creativity is influenced by early arts and science training in “look and see” approaches to facing new and different objects, experiences and spaces. When I was a graduate student, professors looking for a triumphant unified theory of  “indeterminancy” were fond of throwing around Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty to qualify the limit of absolute, determinate knowledge of experiences that transcended “objective” measure.  Today, the uncertainty principle takes on new valence in rethinking how to inspire insight and action in others.  For digital and gaming organizations, the uncertainty principle often falls into the camp of getting the right statistical model or striking the right balance between reward and pain.  For change management specialists, my colleague Dr. David Rock has addressed the consequences of “uncertainty” in his “SCARF” model of neuroleadership.

When it comes to learning new things, I’m down with the idea that human curiosity is key to transforming student anxiety into a thirsty desire to want to know something that remains hidden or unknown.  So first things first!:

1) Ya gotta end the “curiosity killed the cat’ mantra handed down from “children should be seen and not heard” generations. Without curiosity as the activated default mode, fear of the unknown dominates as a built in neural response to tracking signals and patterns unfamiliar to the human nervous system. 

2) Without skills to harness and explore our curious inclinations, we resort to xenophobic distrust of “the other.”  As I remind my students and consulting clients:  “Apprehension fills the void where skills do not yet exist.”  We do not fear what we cannot handle with prior knowledge and tools. (Imagine the first time you learned to ride a bicycle.)

Marcel Duchamp, BICYCLE WHEEL, 1913, readymade.

Whether you regard creativity as a agent of self expression or necessary for adaptable inventions, acts of creativity and creative / novel ideas have both been defined by their confident departure from social and cultural norms, neuro-psychologically and art historically speaking.  Should we be surprised to find a study of 200 people demonstrating bias against introduction of divergent ideas?

For other thoughts on creativity and divergent thinking, see blogs by yours truly here and by GGI Brain Awareness Fellow Andrea Kuszewski here


(Source: bodiesinspace)

Posted on December 27th, 2011
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