Barriers to Getting Creative Approaches Adopted
At Mobus Creative Negotiating, creativity is our middle name. So it hurts us to acknowledge that nurturing creativity is hard to do. We do not just mean that it is hard to come up with creative ideas; we mean that there are deep barriers to implementing creative solutions. Much recent research has looked at “implicit bias,” exploring what people really think and feel as distinct from what they say they are thinking and feeling. Yale professor Melissa Ferguson has shown how wide can be the gaps between people’s judgments and what they say they think. One of the clearest results, as summarized by U Illinois professor Jack Goncalo, is that people see creativity as noxious and disruptive. People have negative associations with the words “novel,” “inventive,” and “original,” whereas they have positive associations with the words “practical” and “useful.”
Part of the problem is, as explained by U San Diego professor Jennifer Mueller, is, “we have an implicit belief the status quo is safe” whereas we see creativity as intensifying feelings of insecurity. Also, as described in a N Y Times article about the issue (We Have a Creativity Problem), the people invested in the status quo have plenty of incentive not to change. Dr. Mueller’s research shows that many managers who claim they want creativity proceed to reflexively reject new ideas.
The lesson for negotiators is that coming up with a creative solution is only the start of the struggle. Getting the creative approach accepted is going to take work to show that the new approach is practical and useful, whereas sticking with the status quo is actually unsafe because the old ways will be overtaken and overwhelmed by new ones.