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Discard these 6 myths about creativity

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Creativity. It’s a fairly new buzzword in business. Now comes research from Harvard business professor Teresa Amabile to debunk the myths about it. For the past eight years, she’s run a diary study of hundreds of managers “to look at creativity in the wild.”

Amabile has uncovered these myths:

Myth 1: Creativity comes from creative types. Actually, anybody with normal intelligence can perform creative work; he or she just needs skills and experience, an open mind and the will to push past setbacks. Lacking encouragement, most people don’t come anywhere near reaching their creative potential.

Myth 2: Money provides an incentive for creativity. As long as people are compensated fairly, they’re more concerned with engaging deeply in their work and making progress. Match people with projects based on their interest and skill levels, so they can stretch without feeling frustrated or excel without being bored.

Myth 3: Time pressure fuels creativity. In reality, people are least creative when they fight the clock because they have to fall back on basic skills and simply push out the work. It’s the opposite of engaging deeply, especially if distractions keep them from focusing.

Myth 4: Misery forces breakthroughs. Amabile’s study shows that creativity is positively associated with joy and love, and negatively associated with anger, fear and anxiety. People feel happiest after they come up with a creative idea, but they’re most likely to come up with that idea if they were happy the day before.

Myth 5: Competition beats collaboration. When people have to compete for recognition, they stop sharing information. On the flip side, the most creative teams have the self-confidence and trust in their teammates to work on ideas together.

Myth 6: A streamlined organization is a creative organization. During one company’s 25 percent downsizing in the course of the study, every stimulant to creativity sank like a stone. Everybody basically disengaged from his or her work.

— Adapted from “The 6 Myths of Creativity,” Bill Breen, Fast Company.

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