Why Creative People Are More Likely to Be Dishonest

7 December 2015

From The Harvard Business Review:

We prize creativity. Being able to produce a novel and useful idea, solution, or product is what fuels innovation and differentiates you from competitors. This helps explain why, in a recent global survey, more than 1,500 corporate and public sector leaders reported that creativity is the most important quality a leader must have.

However, being creative also has an undeniable dark side—one that can be very costly for companies if left unchecked. Research has shown that while creative people are adept at coming up with new ideas, they can also be more likely to engage in morally questionable behaviors. In a set of studies, Francesca Gino at Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely at Duke University found that creative thinkers are better at rationalizing dishonesty than uncreative thinkers. “Thinking outside the box” can lead to acting unethically.

In our research, we’ve found that identifying as a creative person can also lead someone to be dishonest. This is because, at least in the U.S., creativity is often celebrated as a special attribute. The idea that creativity is rare leads to a sense of entitlement; if you are creative, you see yourself as more deserving than others. Leaders reinforce this when they don’t hold creative people to the same rules as those who are less creative, or when they give them special treatment.

. . . .

Basically, it’s not just that creative people can think outside the box; it’s that people who see themselves as creative and see creativity as rare believe that they deserve a bigger box than others. And what is more troubling is that they might be willing to steal and lie as a result.

Link to the rest at The Harvard Business Review

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