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Creative thinking is not a one time activity

Late last year, in response to an article that stated that you need to stifle your creativity in order to get promoted, I argued that you needed to become a credible innovator to cut through the smoke and keep those objections at bay.

Now, new research further indicates that people are biased against creative ideas. Among the findings:

  • Creative ideas are by definition novel, and novelty can trigger feelings of uncertainty that make most people uncomfortable.
  • People dismiss creative ideas in favor of ideas that are purely practical — tried and true.
  • 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.

Nothing new here. As I argued before, in times of accelerated change and uncertainty people will stick to the ‘tried and true’. That’s just how people work. But this research has other important implications because if there was ever a need for new ideas it is now. It also highlights how in love with ideas we are, but as much as we are in love with new and disruptive ideas, we shouldn’t forget that executing those ideas is what really matters.

This research also brings up an important point as stated by Jose Briones yesterday:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/Brioneja/statuses/107895394230484992″]

Creative thinking doesn’t start and end at the ideation stage. It’s an always-on activity. And because of that, we shouldn’t discard creative thinking for problem solving. Plans rarely work out as planned.

Jose drives the point further:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/Brioneja/statuses/107900555682258944″]

Bingo!

Execution matters more than the idea, but again, there’s this maniacal belief that you have to have a great idea to start with. Well, yes and no. Yes because you have to get started and no because that initial idea will most likely change as you move forward. There are countless businesses, too many to name here, that started with an initial idea that ended up becoming something else.

Markets change, people change, needs change, so you shouldn’t be surprised to see your idea take a different turn than originally planned. On top of this, if people are biased against creative ideas, you’re assuming that you’ll always encounter the same set of problems as before. It doesn’t work that way and it shouldn’t work that way. Innovation is both about solving known problems differently than before or solving problems people don’t even know they have yet.

Because businesses, just like people, adopt the same behavior towards new ideas to improve, we can make the assumption that this obstacle will always exist in the vast majority of organizations of any type.

If you look at how successful companies compete, you will find that there’s a lot of creative thinking. And no, I don’t just mean creative thinking in advertising. I mean in business processes, management, supply chain, hiring, etc. They’re places where creative thinking is encouraged, where it’s a standard.

Creative thinking isn’t the enemy, it’s the best friend you have.

What say you?

 

 

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  • Anonymous

    In most cases people stick to the tried and tested formula. One reason for this is that they do not get in touch with their customers to know what the customers truly want or even observe them to come up with actionable creative ideas. We have become too lazy, we are doing the same things over and over again. In Korea, there is this company that came up with a brilliant idea. They know that people are too busy to go to groceries so they set up a scanning walls in subways. People will just scan QR codes and those items will be delivered to their homes. 

    • http://game-changer.net Jorge Barba

      Hi Jeff,

      You are right. People are basically afraid of the truth. Knowing and understanding how our brains work is very revealing, that’s really when you start questioning your ‘auto-pilot’ mode.

      There’s an article in the Atlantic that touches this point and how automation (technological but I will argue that it goes both ways) is making us less aware: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/08/why-we-need-a-more-tentative-approach-to-innovation/244397/

      That’s an interesting concept, I tried searching for it but couldn’t find it. Can you provide me with further information?

      • Anonymous

        Hi Jorge I made a blog on questions that lead to innovation.I put a video of the Grocery there http://www.entrepblog.com/2011/09/questions-that-lead-to-innovation.html

        • http://game-changer.net Jorge Barba

          Hi Jeff,

          Thanks. I left a short comment on your post. That’s a great observation of an awesome idea!

          Cheers,

          Jorge

          • Anonymous

            Thanks Jorge for the site visit. More power! 

          • http://game-changer.net Jorge Barba

            You are most welcome Jeff, thanks for sharing that video.

            Cheers,

            Jorge

  • Ralph Ohr

    Thanks for sharing this post, Jorge.

    Funny – I  was thinking to pick up this topic too. Now let me see what I may have to add to the discussion :-)

    First of all, I basically agree with your points. Creativity is applied throughout the entire innovation process as directions may change. Execution is the toughest part – highest resistance against an innovation project is usually occurs after the ideation stage. I do think that the quality of the initial idea may have an significant influence on where the project finally ends up – similiar to a starting condition.

    When I read through the cited research, I thought to myself too: “Okay, nothing new – nice to have it scientifically confirmed again.” What made me think again was the following:
    “Revealing the existence and nature of a bias against creativity can help explain why people might reject creative ideas and stifle scientific advancements, even in the face of strong intentions to the contrary.”
    We have already discussed here that people show a natural resistance against change and novelty. So far I have assumed that people fitting this profile don’t tend to engage in creativity and innovation activities where they would be confronted with unfamiliar and unpredictable issues. I was struck by the possibility that even people who activiely engage in and support innovation, people who intend to overcome resistance to novelty, could stifle projects they actually want to come true and move forward – without being aware of this. Particularly, for decision-makers this ‘paradox’ would pose a potential risk for not “walking the talk.”

    Maybe I’m overshooting here but what do you think? 

    Cheers, Ralph

    • http://game-changer.net Jorge Barba

      Hi Ralph (@ralph_ohr:disqus ),

      Great observation. I think that, and as you know, people are basically afraid of the truth even when they’re actively searching for it. Whether we acknowledge this or not is another story. We are human after all and a lot of what we don’t say and do (yet) is in our subconscious. Maybe it has to do with our natural need to go into auto-pilot mode without thinking about it?

      It would also be interesting to know/study (if we could) in what context this plays out the most.

      So thoughts do come to mind immediately and I’m trying to think of some examples where it was evident to me that either myself or any of my peers showed this type of contradicting behavior but I can’t. But your observation has definitely got my antenna buzzing.

      An article I found yesterday (see comment I left for Jeff below) also got me thinking and I see a connection with this topic. I’ll try to touch on this on the next post and hopefully you can add to it before I publish it?

      Thanks Ralph,

      Jorge

      • Ralph Ohr

        Looking forward to your upcoming post, Jorge – let me know if and how I may add.
         
        I think you’re right in saying that we’re all humans who are influenced by subconscious motivations, values and mechanisms. If we stay in an introspective mode, it might be possible to be getting aware of these mechanisms bias our behavior. The more we are in auto-pilot mode the higher the control, I’d assume.
         
        But even if we seem to be self-aware and feel we are in control of ourselves, research proves us wrong and irrational (e.g. Dan Ariely’s great work). Probably, we need to accept the fact that we always have blind spots, no matter how we keep focussed on ourselves – particularly in face of strategic decisions.
         
        Recently, an article titled “Biased But Brilliant” was shared: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/31/opinion/sunday/biased-but-brilliant-science-embraces-pigheadedness.html
        It outlines the “coexistence” of rational curiosity or scientists (conscious) and social prejudices (unconscious). Reasoning has been disclosed as “hidden” social function – that’s quite fascinating and reminds me a bit of what we’re discussing here. 
        As to your cited article: I think the claim to approach innovation more tentatively is quite similar to the “Little Bets”. As you mentioned above, it requires creativity throughout the entire process as (expected) failure may occur and / or directions may need to be changed. In my opinion, this approach will be more and more indicated.
         
        Looking forward to hearing more about it.
         
         
        Cheers, Ralph

        • http://game-changer.net Jorge Barba

          Hi Ralph (@ralph_ohr),

          Great point about the blind spots. We don’t know everything and can’t see everything so we have to counter it. How? See this post on HBR ‘Why You May Be Blind to a Good Idea (and What to Do About It)’ which I think offers a great mechanism to counter our bias in the short term and in the long term creates a very collaborative dynamic. Though the mechanism isn’t new, I think the fact that they agree that no one person has an eye on everything makes it useful.

          Link: http://bit.ly/nwaMAF 

          Yes, the experimental approach does a few things: 1. It focuses you on proving a hypothesis which you’ve become aware of, 2. It’s quick so you are managing risk in a smart way. I guess that’s why ‘smart failing’ is a good way to frame it.

          I’ll send you my write up in the week so you can let me know what you think and maybe that will spark some added thoughts.

          Thanks Ralph,

          Jorge

        • http://game-changer.net Jorge Barba

          Hi Ralph (@ralph_ohr),

          Great point about the blind spots. We don’t know everything and can’t see everything so we have to counter it. How? See this post on HBR ‘Why You May Be Blind to a Good Idea (and What to Do About It)’ which I think offers a great mechanism to counter our bias in the short term and in the long term creates a very collaborative dynamic. Though the mechanism isn’t new, I think the fact that they agree that no one person has an eye on everything makes it useful.

          Link: http://bit.ly/nwaMAF 

          Yes, the experimental approach does a few things: 1. It focuses you on proving a hypothesis which you’ve become aware of, 2. It’s quick so you are managing risk in a smart way. I guess that’s why ‘smart failing’ is a good way to frame it.

          I’ll send you my write up in the week so you can let me know what you think and maybe that will spark some added thoughts.

          Thanks Ralph,

          Jorge

  • Kevin McFarthing

    Hi Jorge, great article.  It’s far too simplistic as you state to say “great idea, all we need to do is to execute”.  Execution is challenging, and even though the idea is the creative “what”, the creative “how” is needed to deliver it.  Also, it’s rare for the final product or service to look exactly like the original idea.  It changes and improves as you learn through the project.

    The key points are to have an open mind, not be scared (of the truth or anything else), and to engage with other creative minds on the project.

    I remember facing difficult project or business crises in my career, and it’s amazing how creative people can be when having to solve really difficult problems with massive business implications.  Creativity isn’t just about new ideas.

    Kevin

    • http://game-changer.net Jorge Barba

      Hi Kevin (@innovationfixer),

      Thanks. You are right, and a great way to put it, creativity isn’t just about new ideas. The faster this is acknowledged, the faster we can get a project moving along.

      Thanks again,

      Jorge

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