Which Came First, Creativity or Dishonesty?

With today being Election Day you may be thinking about the need to keep dishonest and problematic people out of office…or at least keeping the more dishonest and problematic people out of office.

Creative and arts oriented people may see their vocation/avocation as a relatively virtuous one compared with that of politicians and other pursuits.

However, four years ago The Conversation wrote about how creativity and dishonesty can have a pretty close association. In some cases, it is almost a chicken and egg relationship as some studies have shown feeling entitled to special treatment can actually boost creativity.

They cite the famous story about the development of Post-It notes as an example of successful dishonesty:

Seeing potential value in the product, Fry reintroduced it to his superiors. They panned the idea, and ordered that he cease working on the project.

Nonetheless, Fry defied those orders and continued with the project. He built a machine to produce the Post-it notes, distributing the prototypes to 3M’s secretaries, who loved them. Fry ignored his managers’ requests, used company property without permission, and bypassed the established protocols of the company – all to pursue his idea.

The author of the article, Lynne Vincent, says that her research has shown that people who aren’t objectively creative, but think they are can develop a sense of entitlement based on the feeling that their ideas are worthy of notice, rule bending, and reward.

As I suggested earlier, what can be somewhat amusing is that dishonesty can actually result in creativity,

The irony is that these negative behaviors may spur more creativity. Francesca Gino and Scott Wiltermuth, a professor at USC, found that being dishonest can actually promote creativity. In this study, participants who cheated on a math and logic task by looking at the answers performed better on a subsequent creativity task than participants who did not cheat. When someone is dishonest, it often requires he or she to break a set of rules; yet this rule-breaking may promote creativity because it allows people to flout convention and expectations

Of course, if you have worked for any length of time in a creative field you know that the willingness to break convention and move counter to expectations is a hallmark of creativity. There can be a fine line, however, between coloring outside the lines and crossing the line where your actions deplete the value of something for others.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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