Why we find it hard to get creative ideas accepted


Most people feel that their organisation needs to nurture and develop creative ideas – because that’s where innovation and growth comes from.

So, why is it such a struggle to actually get new ideas and projects accepted and pushed through the organisational decision making process.

A paper by Jennifer S. Mueller, Shimul Melwani and Jack A. Goncalo gives us an insight into how creative ideas are seen by others.

Most people, if you ask them, will say they support creativity – it’s a good thing.

A creative idea is different from just doing a job well.

It is novel – there is something new or different about it and it is useful – it should help us in some way.

And, in general, people feel like they would support creativity – either because they feel it’s the thing that other people would support – a social norm, or because they think of themselves as creative.

The odd thing is that creative ideas also introduce uncertainty.

If we already do things in a certain way, and we’re used to a particular set of accepted ideas and beliefs, we may be biased against creativity without being aware of it.

We can see this in the NIH syndrome – the not invented here mindset that poo poohs anything that comes from a different team or company.

Even supposedly creative people find it hard to recognise other people’s creative ideas.

We may only accept that an idea is creative once it has been endorsed by someone we trust or when it has reached a critical mass of users and we, rather belatedly, decide to join the party.

In the paper, the authors cite the example of Robert Goddard who worked on rocket propulsion and was ridiculed by his peers.

In the early days of the internet, some people felt that it would simply stop working because of the number of connections that were being created and how communication would be impossible.

A few years ago, people felt that blockchain would never work – and now they are starting to become more aware of the potential but also the huge issues that still need to be solved.

Their interest has been sparked, however, not by the idea but by the enormous increase in the value of bitcoin and other crypto currencies.

The problem for organisations, the authors argue, may not be about coming up with creative ideas.

It’s that we automatically organise ourselves into a defensive wall anchored in familiar, traditional or approved ideas.

So, what we need to do is learn how to address the biases we have – and improve the way in which we think about and recognise creative ideas.

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