The bias against creativity is one of the 12 risk-averse traps that leaders have to overcome, if they want fresh bold ingenious high-potential people to bring forward a stream of fresh bold ingenious high-potential ideas.
This article from Quartz says creativity is often perceived as a threat, even by the executives who want it. In Chapter One of our book, PowerUP Brilliance, we cite the same IBM study that Quartz cites – which reports that creativity is the #1 quality that Fortune 1500 CEOs want to increase in their workforce, so they can profit more from initiative and innovation. Yet, CEOs are often unaware of the ways that their lieutenants may shut down creativity, when they react to “out of the box ideas” with the bias against creativity and give eager creative volunteers a negative or tepid Level 1 response.
Courage is the vital force that can flip the switch, turn creativity on and break the vicious cycle of needing creativity, hiring creativity, getting creativity, then stifling creativity and losing creativity.
Courage – the vital force for creativity-originators. When you champion creative proposals, you’ll need Courage to look past threatened, dismissive or patronizing gestures or loud domineering assertions and contradictions. You need Courage to move past “fighting for what you believe is right,” which entrenches you in defensive win/lose thinking, so you use critical feedback to sharpen up the value proposition and mitigate the execution risk. This isn’t easy when you feel that your intellect, competence, and perhaps your integrity is under attack – and your critics aren’t doing anything to value your initiative or win your trust. The bias against creativity is strongest, according to studies at Cornell, when out-of-the-box ideas come from genders, age groups, professions or ethnic groups who are expected to follow, rather than lead, and not be too “uppity.”
Courage – the vital force for creativity-recipients. You’ll need Courage to be open to a fresh perspective – and admit that someone new could take the same problem you’ve been working for years and crack it in a boldly different or embarrassingly obvious way. If the new solution at first is counter-intuitive, or comes from a diverse “out-group” that speaks a foreign language, or represents a diverse low-hegemony gender, age-group, profession or a political rival, it takes courage to give them benefit of the doubt. If you want your criticism and feedback to sharpen rather than stifle thinking, courage-building lifts the dialogue with a solicitous heart and an open mind.
Very few of us – creative or not – come hard-wired with the Courage to lift our heads above the parapets when we feel under threat or attack. Very few of us – whether or not we are the 1500 CEOs in the IBM study or their 20,000 C-suite colleagues – come hard-wired lift the dialogue from Level 1 counter-punches or Level 2 passivity to Level 5 co-creation, when it threatens our power, routine or hegemony.
Fortunately, in hundreds of Innovation Leadership programs, the Courage to over-ride the hard-wiring that makes creativity a threat, rather than an asset, can be taught and learned. Learning to encourage and profit from creativity is like learning a foreign language. It’s awkward, at first, to diagnose the bias against creativity, hierarchy traps, summit fever and the other defensive traps – and to uplift, ennoble and lift self and others out of those traps. After practice with fun simulations, cases, scrums and guided real-world application, courage-building dialogues become more fluent and natural.
In your comments, we invite you to share what’s helped to build Courage and PowerUP creativity in your enterprise. If you’d like a 5-step formula that’s equipped thousands of our clients to unleash the creativity that their CEOs want and need, we invite you to visit online – or check out our book, PowerUP Brilliance.