Truth is people don’t actually like creativity

There was an interesting article in Slate a few weeks ago about the bias against creativity, about the fact that most people say they like creativity but that the truth is we really don’t. And since I work in a creative agency often presenting creative ideas to clients the theory based on a 2011 study used in this article makes a whole lot of sense to me.

“We think of creative people in a heroic manner, and we celebrate them, but the thing we celebrate is the after-effect,” says Barry Staw, a researcher at the University of California–Berkeley business school who specializes in creativity. Staw says most people are risk-averse. He refers to them as satisfiers. “As much as we celebrate independence in Western cultures, there is an awful lot of pressure to conform,” he says. Satisfiers avoid stirring things up, even if it means forsaking the truth or rejecting a good idea.  Even people who say they are looking for creativity react negatively to creative ideas, as demonstrated in a 2011 study from the University of Pennsylvania. Uncertainty is an inherent part of new ideas, and it’s also something that most people would do almost anything to avoid. People’s partiality toward certainty biases them against creative ideas and can interfere with their ability to even recognize creative ideas .

Clients will come to us for creative tasks since that’s what we’re most known for. You can literally witness though how the creative ideas that were presented and liked by the clients will be softened once they start to move through the chain of command. That is if you allow that to happen, we’re quite protective on the essence of an idea to make sure that while we’re very open to tweak it we will make sure that that essential core idea is never lost.

Most people agree that what distinguishes those who become famously creative is their resilience. While creativity at times is very rewarding, it is not about happiness. Staw says a successful creative person is someone “who can survive conformity pressures and be impervious to social pressure.”

And of course I realize like anyone else that some creative ideas are just not good or are creative but not an answer to the question or briefing at hand. This is purely about ideas that are recognized as good and creative and how they are being judged during the decision process. This is about how people often reject creative ideas even when espousing creativity as a desired goal (as the research so eloquently puts it).

In terms of decision style, most people also fall short of the creative ideal. they are satisficers rather than searcher for the optimal or most desirable solution. They follow a number of energy-saving heuristics that generally lead to a set of systematic biases or inaccuracies in processing information. And, unless they are held accountable for their decision-making strategies, they tend to find the easy way out – either by not engaging in very careful thinking or by modeling their choices on the preferences of those who will be evaluating them.

Especially that last sentence is a problem I think. Not only in judging creativity by the way. When people make decision upon what they think someone else will probably think of it instead of what they think themselves sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. There’s a clear link with management style there as well. How much do you empower your own people? It seems that to enable creativity you need to do that.

Instead of issuing directives and policy statements and hoping that they will be obeyed, innovative firms must encourage disobedience. In fact, those in power should go so far as to encourage active opposition. Innovative organizations are those that harbor multiple perspectives and objectives, not simply a variety of views.

Last but not least, it’s also why creativity takes courage – dixit Henri Matisse. Definitely an interesting read, be sure to check the full article.

When augmentation is about reducing (Pt. 2)

In February of this year I wrote a post about Kevin Slavin’s talk on Augmented Reality at PICNIC NY Salon. In that video he talked about something that made total sense to me… which to be honest is true for most of what Kevin says anyway :)

“His thoughts around augmented cities and why maybe ‘augmented’ should be about taking things away instead of just adding them to the world as we are already drowning in data as it is.”

So when I got this video today from a colleague about a research project on ‘Dimished Reality’ by Jan Herling and Wolfgang Broll of the  Ilmenau University of Technology, it was like a proof of the concept Kevin talked about a year ago now. I don’t like the name ‘Dimished Reality’ because it still is doing more on top of what is really there. But in this case less really is more, check it out:

Marketing accountability

Marketers have an image problem and it’s their (our) own fault. Marketers need to become more accountable for themselves and for the benefit of the business. This words come out of a presentation from Futurelab, but they’re not the only ones to realize that accountability is exactly one of the key issues marketers have to deal with.

“We can’t compete on price. We also can’t compete on quality, features or service. That leaves fraud, which I’d like you to call marketing”
– Dilbert’s boss

A couple of months ago, Gregor Harter, Eward Landry and Andrew Tipping wrote an interesting article on The New Complete Marketer, like they called it. Apart from ‘putting the consumer at the heart of marketing’ or ‘live the new agency paradigm’ (thinking also about my agency2.0 post) they focus on the ‘make marketing accountable’:

“For many enterprises, the development of accountability follows much the same path, as marketers learn to transform raw data into actionable planning. Stage one is evaluating what is being measured and how it is being measured; stage two is condensing scores of diffuse reports and metrics down to a useful few; and stage three is creating targeted analytics and a core report to gauge performance and help determine where best to focus going forward.”

Back on Futurelab Jon Miller talked about the 5 stages of marketing accountability and asks in which stage you are with your organisation. The stages are:

  1. Denial: “Marketing is an art, not a science. It can’t be measured. The results will come, trust me!”
  2. Anger: “You just don’t understand how marketing works. Why is marketing held to a higher standard than everyone else?”
  3. Confusion: “I know I should measure marketing results, but I just don’t know how.”
  4. Self-Promotion: “Hey, come look at all these charts and graphs!”
  5. Accountability: “Revenue starts in marketing.”

ANA think it’s a trend to watch in 2008 though, they think this is the year marketers will get serious about marketing:

“In ANA’s 2007 marketing accountability study, it was startling to find that, despite enormous efforts, 42% of marketers were dissatisfied with ROI measurements and metrics. In about half of the companies, marketing and finance don’t speak with one voice or share common metrics. Enough! Recognizing the critical importance of accountability, companies will appoint a czar — the chief accountability officer — to lead a disciplined, internally consistent approach to marketing measurements, metrics and productivity.”

So the question is, where are you as a marketer? I believe it is indeed something we marketers need be a lot more serious about, for themselves and the business. What’s your take?