Creativity is a Lonely Business

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In this brand new, fresh out-of-the-box year, there is a lot of energy focused on doing things differently. We are all motivated to be creative and make changes for the better in 2012.

A new way of doing things takes innovation, creativity, and a renewed commitment to see our changes through to fruition. Whether our motivations are personal or professional, there is real value in getting creative in 2012.

Just don’t expect your group or organization to jump right on board your forward-thinking bandwagon …

Most organizations give great lip service to creativity. It’s coveted in business for a very simple reason: New ideas that transcend the current marketplace have the power to bring wealth, fame, and new status to any organization or group. Now, who wouldn’t want that?

Unfortunately, research shows that creativity doesn’t last very long in commercial, scientific, educational, or even artistic organizations. It seems that the existing rules, norms, and culture within any group often snuff out any major creative force before it has a chance to make a real impact on the organization.

In a study carried out by Dr. Inmaculada Adarves-Yorno, Lecturer in Leadership Studies from Exeter University, the following observations were made:

“Two groups of participants were asked to create posters and subtly gave each group a norm about either using more words on the poster or more images.
tAfterwards, when they judged each other’s work, participants equated creativity with following the group norm; the ‘words’ group rated posters with more words as more creative and the ‘images’ group rated posters with more images as more creative. The unwritten rules of the group, therefore, determined what its members considered creative. In effect groups had redefined creativity as conformity.

In another part of the same experiment these results were reversed when people’s individuality rather than their group membership was emphasized. Creativity became all about being different from others and being inconsistent with group norms. When freed from the almost invisible shackles of the group, then, people suddenly remembered the dictionary definition of creativity: to transcend the orthodox.”

What the study shows is that creativity will always struggle to free itself from the established ways in which we work and live. Doing something truly new and innovative will often require steering away from the herd, subjecting one’s self to doubt, scrutiny, and increased pressure from the group to stop rocking the boat and get back in line.

So, if you are still motivated to blaze a new trail in 2012, just realize that you may have to go it alone … at least until everyone else catches up.

Please contact Joe Bastian at joseph.bastian@acs-inc.com

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