Creative Ideas Get You Nowhere

New research at the University of Pennsylvania reveals that most people reject truly creative ideas.

The organizational behaviour study, The Bias Against Creativity: Why People Desire But Reject Creative Ideas, scheduled to be published in Psychological Science journal, shows that most people experience a negative association with creative and novel, high performance solutions.

According to Jack Goncalo (, member of the study, people are often feeling uncomfortable when faced with prospects of new, novel approaches or technology.

Even when a new, creative approach is validated through a sound explanation, the subjects preferred practical, familiar solutions instead.

The study unveils as well as confirms a few key ingredients to technological evolution: most organizational behaviourists and communication theorists will tell you that human behavior, by default, aims to resist change. Change is a difficult pill to swallow because any change usually implies alteration and adaption of already established habits and behaviours. To change one’s behaviour is innately undesired.

Similarly, researchers have also confirmed that radical elements in society, as well as deviancy, tend to spur creativity and change. Despite this, society has been treating its more provocative denizens with increasing levels of condemnation.

This may translate to how individual as well as social perception of creative developments is accepted or rejected, as the study also shows some less creative, but well “marketed” ideas have a better chance at being coopted, rather than those truly different ideas.

You need look no further than at your new IKEA catalogue. Or for that matter, our very economy and financial principles: despite evidence to the contrary, the trickle-down principle is still dressed up to appeal to public at large, as real change, those scarce creative solutions are largely ignored.

According to the study, subjects often associated novel, creative ideas with words such as “vomit, poison, and agony.”

Uncertainty drives the search for and generation of creative ideas, but “uncertainty also makes us less able to recognize creativity, perhaps when we need it most,” the researchers wrote. “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. … The field of creativity may need to shift its current focus from identifying how to generate more creative ideas to identify how to help innovative institutions recognize and accept creativity.”