Some people are able to sustain creativity and repeatedly produce creative work over time, while others struggle to replicate their initial creative production. However, little is known about the causes of this discrepancy in creative output. Researchers (Deichmann & Baer, 2022) attempted to identify conditions that help people continue to be creative.
NOVEL CREATIVITY AND SUBSEQUENT OUTPUT
Using data on first-time cookbook authors in the UK, the researchers analyzed sales information, subsequent cookbooks published by the authors, and any awards that each cookbook may have received. The results showed that when authors’ first cookbook was more novel, rather than conventional, they were less likely to publish a second cookbook in the following five years. This was especially true when the first cookbook won an award.
Two subsequent experiments were conducted in which participants were asked to come up with a creative cookbook theme. They received feedback on whether their idea was considered novel or conventional, and whether the idea won an award. Participants were then asked if they would like to develop a second idea for a new cookbook, or to come up with a marketing strategy for the first cookbook.
These studies confirmed the prior findings. They also showed that producing an award-winning, novel idea led people to feel that that their “creative identity” was being threatened when they anticipated having to develop another creative idea. This creativity threat then caused them to be less likely to produce a second idea for a cookbook theme.
PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS
Guided by this research, the authors offer a few suggestions for producers of creative work and their managers. First, producers could employ structured approaches that enhance creative consistency. This may help them generate more ideas, and thus, reduce the threat to their creative identity. Second, the researchers propose that producers engage in collaborative work to increase the chances of sustained creativity. The authors note, however, that individual producers may be more willing to work in teams after they have first successfully developed ideas on their own. Finally, the researchers recommend that managers cultivate psychological safety for their creative producers. Environments that encourage risk taking and frame failures as opportunities may decrease the creative threat that people experience when trying to produce follow-up work.
Deichmann, D., & Baer, M. (2023). A recipe for success? Sustaining creativity among first-time creative producers. Journal of Applied Psychology, 108(1), 100–113.
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