Creativity conjures words like agony, vomit and poison to most

Following on from the theme of our Weekly Bits of Interest, a recent article by Science Daily reveals these findings from a study at theUniversity of Pennsylvania:

  • New ideas trigger feelings of uncertainty that make most people uncomfortable

  • People dismiss creative ideas in favour of ideas that are purely practical – tried and true

  • While people explicitly claim to desire creative ideas, they actually associated them with negative words such as ‘vomit’, ‘poison’ and ‘agony

Working in an area called Innovation Policy I appreciate the difficulty that people can have coming to grips with the concept of innovation and how it can be operationalised. When I read the Pennsylvania study I was in agony as if I had been poisoned, I did not know whether to laugh, cry or vomit. Why should such an important word as creativity produce such a negative response in people? Maybe the concept of creativity, like that of innovation, is difficult to understand and so it turns some people off.

In a similar vein, an op-ed on 16 September 2011 in the Sydney Morning Herald by Jessica Irvine, Economics Writer, discusses the need to replace all the talk about productivity, our flagging performance in it, and need for more of it – with creativity. She suggests that we at every instance replace the word ‘productivity’ with ‘creativity’ as “we create, we produce; it’s all the same”. Perhaps she would change her tune after reading the study from theUniversity of Pennsylvania!

Here in Innovation Policy, we have been trialling Yammer (the Enterprise Social Network) as a new tool for information sharing within our area. At the commencement of the trial, some users were quick to jump on the negatives without even trialling this innovative communication tool, explaining why it wouldn’t work or that we already had too many information sharing platforms. However those who have used it have generally been quite positive about how they have found it - it has been good for getting quick responses to simple questions, for circulating reports, for reducing email traffic and for letting others know what their team is working on. This highlights how it is necessary to plough through the negativity often associated with new ideas as ultimately they can lead to numerous and varied beneficial outcomes.

How do you market innovative, creative, and new ideas to generate interest and ensure best take up of those ideas?