Why creative ideas are often rejected in favour of conformity and uniformity.
Does society really value creativity? People say they want more creative people, more creative ideas and solutions, but do they really?
For one thing teachers don’t generally like creative students. Primary school teachers in one study liked the most creative kids the least (Westby & Dawson, 1995). This isn’t an isolated finding in education and probably a result of the fact that creative kids are generally more disruptive; naturally they don’t like to follow the rules.
For all the talk of creativity in business, industry and academia, there’s evidence that it’s implicitly discouraged in these areas as well. Although leaders of organisations say they want creative ideas, the evidence suggests creativity gets rejected in favour of conformity and uniformity (Staw, 1995 cited in Mueller et al., 2011).
People often reject creative ideas, even when espousing creativity as a desired goal. To explain this paradox, we propose that people can hold a bias against creativity that is not necessarily overt and that is activated when people experience a motivation to reduce uncertainty. In two experiments, we manipulated uncertainty using different methods, including an uncertainty-reduction prime. The results of both experiments demonstrated the existence of a negative bias against creativity (relative to practicality) when participants experienced uncertainty. Furthermore, this bias against creativity interfered with participants’ ability to recognize a creative idea. These results reveal a concealed barrier that creative actors may face as they attempt to gain acceptance for their novel ideas.