Why Group Norms Kill Creativity

18 06 2009

Here is a great blog post from Psyblog titled Why Group Norms Kill Creativity. The author lays out the argument that group norms are the enemy of creativity. That is, trying to fit into the box defined by the group. There are several studies cited: conservative vs. liberal dormitories (Siegel &Siegel, 1957), creativity is conformity (Adarves-Yorno et al., 2006) as well as another classic study where participants sided with the group about the length of a line even though they were witness to clear evidence that the group was wrong about their assessment. My favorite closing lines:

“So of course schools kill creativity, of course politicians are fighting over the middle ground, of course most TV programmes are the same and of course all our high streets are identical….Coming up with something truly new often means having to steer a path away from the herd, towards new horizons.”

This is worth the read. It has me thinking about when I have my most creative moments and when I have really made a difference in my work. It also helps to explain why these solo moment breakthroughs are often met with difficulty at implementation where I need to join in group consensus. In short, I often find myself so far outside the box that I am not aware there really is a box. However, I don’t mind as I try to document my creative moments recording the change in me as I wander across the wilds back to the fold. I know that this does at times create tension as I renter the group a changed person as I don’t want to conform. But compromise must be made so I give some but like the gentile pull on the reigns, the pressure on the side of the horse, the organization starts to change one person at a time. Ah yes, the tipping point. We may never be able to lead organizations to where we think they should be but we should always be able to help shape them into better examples of who they want to be by remembering to take that solo time and remain true to the changes they produce.




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