6 myths of creativity

Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile, head of the Entrepreneurial Management Unit, has done a 12-year study on creativity, and came up with some interesting conclusions.

You can read more about the methodology in this article from Fastcompany, but, in brief, the study came up with six main myths:

1. Creativity Comes From Creative Types

We all know of supposedly creative designers churning out the same old same old week after week, while developers who are supposed to mundanely churn out code may just be coming up with some great ideas. Why? Unsurprisingly, motivation is the most important trait for unleashing latent creative genius, which is why it’s often new staff who can come in and stir things up. Too many companies succeed in nothing more than grinding down staff into boredom and lethargy. A cog in the machine may be efficient, but hardly likely to lead to groundbreaking innovation.

2. Money Is a Creativity Motivator
Money is no motivator at all. A study I remember reading gave the average boost to productivity from an increase as lasting only two days. Money can only be a demotivator if it’s bad enough.

3. Time Pressure Fuels Creativity
Rushing and cutting corners just to get the job done is not conducive to creativity. I get highly frustrated when orders come down from on high demanding something in a ridiculous timeframe. I spend my time thinking who are these idiots, not about great ways to solve the problem.

4. Fear Forces Breakthroughs

Same as (3), creative people should be thinking about the problem, not what they’re going to do about their next bond payment after they lose their job, or dreading the next rant.

5. Competition Beats Collaboration
It may not be news to Open Source developers, or contributors to projects such as Wikipedia, but ideas feed upon each other. The more sharing the more raw material for others to build upon.

6. A Streamlined Organization Is a Creative Organization
Closely related to (3) and (5). The less people to collaborate with, and the more time running around fitting everything in the day, the less time to mull, and come up with those sparks of genius.

So, in what shape is your organisation for those creative ideas to start flowing?