07 Dec 2011  Research & Ideas

Are Creative People More Dishonest?

In a series of studies, Francesca Gino and Dan Ariely found that inherently creative people tend to cheat more than noncreative people. Furthermore, they showed that inducing creative behavior tends to induce unethical behavior. It's a sobering thought in a corporate culture that champions out-of-the-box thinking.

 

In his 1641 treatise, Meditations on First Philosophy, philosopher René Descartes introduced the concept of an "evil genius," a powerful force of nature who is equally clever and deceitful. Since then, the world has given us plenty of examples—Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, fictional Wall Street villain Gordon Gekko, and real-life Wall Street villain Bernie Madoff, to name a few. Not only were these classic bad guys unquestionably unethical, but all were inarguably creative in carrying out their bad behavior as well. Indeed, it's rare to hear anyone described as both evil and unoriginal.

This raises a question: Is there a link between creativity and unethical behavior?

"Dan and I started wondering whether there is something about the creative process that triggers dishonest behavior."

There certainly is, according to an article in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. In "The Dark Side of Creativity: Original Thinkers Can Be More Dishonest," the authors report that inherently creative people tend to cheat more than noncreative types. Furthermore, they show that inducing creative behavior tends to induce unethical behavior.

It's a sobering thought in a corporate culture that champions out-of-the-box thinking.

"In any organization, especially in contexts that are global and very competitive, there is so much focus on trying to be innovative and creative," says Francesca Gino, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, who wrote the article with Dan Ariely of Duke University. "But is creativity always good? We often hear of cases in which people use innovative behavior to create a sense that what they're doing is not morally wrong. So, Dan and I started wondering whether there is something about the creative process that triggers dishonest behavior. Specifically, we decided to explore the idea that enhancing the motivation to think outside the box can drive individuals toward more dishonest decisions when facing ethical dilemmas."

Creativity and ambiguity

To begin their research, Gino and Ariely surveyed 99 employees across 17 departments at an American advertising agency, where some jobs—copywriting, for example—required much more creativity than others. In the anonymous survey, on a seven-point scale, the respondents indicated how likely they were to engage in various ethically questionable work behaviors such as "take home office supplies from work" and "inflate your business expense report." Respondents also evaluated scenarios describing a hypothetical person who has the opportunity to behave dishonestly, and then indicated, again on a seven-point scale, how likely they would be to behave unethically in each instance. Finally, the respondents reported how much creativity was required in their respective jobs, with three managers in the executive office rating the creativity level required in each department, as well.

Overall, the researchers learned, the higher the creativity required for the job, the higher the level of self-reported dishonesty.

Then, through a series of experimental studies, the researchers tested--and largely proved--the theory that creative people are more likely to exhibit unethical behavior when faced with ethical dilemmas.

The first study tested the hypothesis that a naturally creative person is predisposed to dishonest behavior. (The week before the experiment, the participants, 71 university students, completed an online survey that included dispositional measures of creativity.) The experiment included a computerized task in which participants viewed 20 dots inside a diagonally bisected square. They were told to indicate whether there were more dots on the right side of the square or on the left, and that their answers would affect how well they would be compensated for taking part in the experiment: each "more-on-the-right" decision would earn them 10 times as much as a "left" decision.

In half the trials, it was obvious that one side of the square had more dots than the other—2 dots versus 18, for example. But in the other half, the task was a little more ambiguous, with several dots appearing near or on the line in the middle of the square. The researchers focused on the results of the "ambiguous" tasks, with the idea that these were the ones that allowed more room for interpretation—participants could easily misrepresent what they actually perceived and report "more on the right" in order to incur a higher payoff.

The results showed that participants who had scored high on the creativity scale were the most likely to fudge their answers for monetary gain.

"Ambiguity, having some room to justify our behavior, seems to be a really important component of explaining when and why we cross ethical boundaries, and these results show us that creativity helps with that process," Gino says. "It suggests that moral flexibility is the mechanism explaining why being in a creative mindset or being a creative person puts you more at risk to do the wrong thing."

The perils of inducing creativity

In another study, which included 111 university students, the researchers tested whether they could actively induce creativity, and whether doing so would temporarily induce dishonest behavior. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups: the "creative mindset" group and the control group. All were asked to construct sentences from sets of randomly positioned words. But in the creative mindset group, more than half of the sentences included words related to creativity: "novel," "imagination," "invention," "originality," and so on.

"We're not saying that creativity's bad, but we are saying that it can lead to problems."

To test whether the creativity prime worked, the researchers asked participants to solve a cognitive puzzle created by the Gestalt psychologist Karl Duncker. Known as Duncker's candle problem, it presents participants with the task of affixing a candle to a wall in such a way that when lit, the candle won't drip wax on the floor. To complete the task, participants can use a box of tacks, a book of matches, and the candle. The ideal solution, which requires ingenuity, involves emptying the box, tacking the box to the wall as a candleholder, placing the candle inside, and lighting the candle with the match. The researchers found that 47.3 percent of participants in the creative mindset group solved the candle problem ideally, versus 26.8 percent in the control group.

Next, participants completed a series of computerized tasks, including the ambiguous dots-in-the-square task from the first study. The results showed that those in the creative mindset group were much more likely to give dishonest answers for monetary gain than those in the control group.

"These were simple studies, but they were powerful in showing that our ability to justify things is significantly greater if we are in a creative mindset or when we are creative people," Gino says.

That said, Gino is quick to add that she and Ariely are not suggesting that companies put the kibosh on innovation in order to keep dishonesty at bay.

"We're not saying that creativity is bad," Gino says. "But we are saying that it can lead to problems. And so the question from a manager's perspective is: How do you get the good outcomes of creativity without triggering the bad outcomes?"

While "The Dark Side of Creativity" doesn't answer that question directly, Gino hopes that the research will remind innovative organizations not to give short shrift to ethics.

"As a manager, if you're highlighting the importance of being creative and innovative, it's important to make sure that you're stressing the presence of ethics, too," Gino says. "Dan and I are of the hope that managers will start thinking about how to structure the creative process in such a way that they can keep ethics in check, triggering the good behavior without triggering the bad behavior."

Invitation to participate

Are you a manager at an organization that stresses the importance of creativity in the workplace? Do you have thoughts about how to encourage creativity while discouraging unethical behavior? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. You can also reach Francesca Gino directly at fgino@hbs.edu or follow her on Twitter, @francescagino.

About the author

Carmen Nobel is senior editor of Harvard Business School Working Knowledge.

Comments

    • Mandy Croucamp
    • Business Owner, &amplify

    As a creative for many years I can honestly say that the questionable ethics came from every area except those who had passion and an incredible work ethic! The creative souls who put their ideas on the line every day without a thought of what their individual or combined IP contributed to the non creative so called management.The damage done to individuals came from the non creative side of the business. How many ideas have been stolen in the name of pitches and presentations.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Great piece of work, that confirms that story of the serpent enticing Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

     
     
     
    • Deb Pekin
    • Change Manager, Kraft Foods Inc

    It would be interesting to connect this research with 'how the brain works' research. It strikes me that 'uncreative' behavior is more likely to originate in the part of the brain that supports 'rote' functions - stuff that you don't think about. 'Creative' behaviors seem to originate from the higher brain functions - with more conscious involvement. That could explain why it is possible to 'prime' people to be more creative - it wakes up the consciousness. When we think actively, we see more possibilities, and that includes ways to gain an advantage - a survival mechanism. When we think passively, we don't see the possibilites, so we follow the rules.

     
     
     
    • Rene Verbrugge
    • Owner, R.W. Verbrugge

    Suggestion for appropriate music : 'La Morale Dell'Immorale' from series La Piovra Ennio Morricone http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMaOFdZCLeA

     
     
     
    • SealTree

    A fascinating article but isn't the target group skewed by virtue of the fact that you are talking to creative people in advertising at the beginning of the experiment?

    And it discusses 'self-reported dishonesty' which surely poses the question, surely they are not that dishonest if they self-report it? Or perhaps the issue is that those who do not self-report are so dishonest they would never admit to it...

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Yes, let's all rail against the creative out-of-the-box thinkers. It's scary when people think.

    Nice article from a non-creative.

     
     
     
    • Dick Baynham
    • Director, Baynham

    In order to get to an effective and sustainable solution you always need to ask the right questions is the right order.

    The first things I want to know about anybody or any organisation I am considering working with are;

    1. Are they honest?
    2. Are they competent?
    3. Are they leaders?
    4. Are they able to change for the better?

    As part of the list of questions I seek answers to I want to know if they are likely to contribute or hinder the ongoing creative process that should be part of any culture that encourages continuous improvement.

    The first question however is always the most important and it is fundamental. How you go about finding a satisfactory answer to that question will depend on your ability to test the difference between what people say and what they do.

    By quietly monitoring the difference between statements and actions for any length of time you acquire the habit of looking beyond the public personae and seeing whether there is any real ethical value.

    If I see flaws in ethical values, I pass on the relationship and I recommend everyone else does the same.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    I've observed that behaviour for several years in our company, from Software Developers not following the processes defined by them selves to managers paying ilegal fees to goverment employees to get new projects, both of them always use ridiculous (from my point of view) excuses, all of them very creative of course. Is good to know that there is a relationship between creativity and unethical behavior so we can act to avoid more unethical and undesired situations in our company. Thanks!

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    This goes a long way to explaining the chaos that was created in the housing market. "Creative" development of new products that were only in the finanacial interest of mortgage orignators, banks and Wall Street firms has put our economy at risk. Unfortunately the behavior spread to the rest of the world as well. The activity appeared to be postive because so much money was made in the process, but all that was created was an unsustainable and unrealistic market for housing. And the economic story was perpetuated by the leaders of the country, justified as the American Dream of Homeownership.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    How does the author define honesty and ethics? There are obvious unethical behaviours with different levels of magnitude and impact - as demonstrated by Bernie Madoff and Gordon Gekko. A majority of our (legal) actions fall into a grey area that is up for interpretation. In this grey area, the definition of ethics or honesty becomes an individial one. The conclusions of this research study is based on the authors own view of what is ethical and what is not.

     
     
     
    • Khadija
    • President, Pakistan Evaluation Network

    With due respect for the academic work done by the two scholars, it has disturbed me due to the fact that from eternity to date, we have come a long way in both material (including technological) and human development due to our innovative and creative fellow human beings. Creativity is human nature. If it were not, the early man living in the cave could not have come out to build skyscrapers; moved from sign language to advanced communication and from farming to genetic engineering. There is no doubt that man also has the capacity to be good or bad. The higher incidence of being bad among people with creativity, as shown in the research will discourage and inhibit the creative people to expose them to innovation. What a loss!

     
     
     
    • Marlis Krichewsky
    • researcher, Centre d'Innovation et de Recherche en P?dagogie de Paris

    What is the underlying definition of "ethical behavior" ? Isn't it being in conformity with socially accepted rules and standards ? Creativity means disruptive change, causing trouble with existing rules and standards... setting new ones. So I am moderately surprised by the outcomes of this research. By the way resolving problems like the candle problem is not really a question of creativity but more an intelligence test.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    I won't even dignify this article with a comment.

     
     
     
    • Gene Huffman
    • T. Rowe Price

    I wonder about the cause-and-effect of these findings. Is it possible that "dishonest" people are prone to ethical relativism that creates justification for their decisions? It may not be true that increasing creativity will also increase the risk of poor ethical decisions.

     
     
     
    • Phil
    • Lecturer, RGU

    Imust be missing something. If the task is to judge the number of dots on the left and right and there is some ambiguity how does the study distinguish between what might be a "preference bias", that is a desire to see more dots on the right or a "dishonesty"? The report above does say "allows more room for interpretation". So, maybe creatives are biased to interpret optimistically whereas non creatives take a more pessimistic. interpretation? Phil

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Could risk-taking be the "missing link" between creatives and ethics? Creative people have to be much more comfortable with taking risks, both to get exposed to a wider variety of ideas and experiences, and to propose new concepts. Wouldn't risk-taking necessarily be motivated by the possibility of personal gain? Depending on the ethical dimensions of the decision, creatives pushing the ethical line seems quite consistent with one's expectations.....

     
     
     
    • JOSE CARLOS LOPEZ
    • DIRECTOR, INGENIERIA Y ADMINISTRACION

    My opinion is that ethical behaviour depends of the corporate values, if the corporate environment on daily basis promotes lack to adhesion to the general accepted values by society then the "wise creative individual" will try to fit in the corporate culture, having a performance suitable to his peers.

     
     
     
    • Val Vadeboncoeur
    • Director of Training, Idea Champions

    This "research" doesn't "prove" much of anything. In fact, it's a bit dishonest itself. Way too many variables at work here.

    The stated first study findings were "the higher the creativity required for the job, the higher the level of self-reported dishonesty." In other words, the more creative you are, the more honest! But these supposed researchers miss this very obvious point and choose to go in the very opposite direction instead. Then, having taken the wrong track at the outset, the rest seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Add to the mix that, at the beginning, we're talking about a very specific subset of people; people who work in advertising. This is a self-selected group of people who, generally, have less trouble with ambiguity than the general population. I know a lot of creative writers and artists who chose not to go into advertising, in the first place, because, in their eyes, it was inherently dishonest.

    My concern here is that this very dubious research is being given the imprimatur of the Harvard Business School and will, no doubt, be picked up by others in the media. It could become a "meme" and enter the thinking of the general population, reinforcing the dangerous belief, held by a sizable segment of any population at any time, that "people who think, and are smart, are dangerous and immoral." This is why, when totalitarian regimes are ascending to power, one of the very first things they do is kill all the smart people.

    This "research," seems, to me, to be a shoddy piece of work that has a few issues with honesty itself.

     
     
     
    • Frank Riganelli
    • author

    I wonder how the same hypothesis would play out when ethics are the trait in question and not creativity. What kind of ethics do those creative people have who have a tendency to cheat? If they are inclined to be unethical, their creativity will let them see more options to cheat with. The ethical creative person will see the options but not behave dishonestly for their ethics. I have to agree with the other comments here that see the study as self-serving in focusing on creativity, in spite of the ethics of the person in question.

    It is not a forgone conclusion that creativity makes a person dishonest. If that person has bad ethics they will be dishonest with or without seeing more options available to them. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, only to name two creative people who have proven this study inaccurate.

    Frank Riganelli, former Fortune company operations management, instructor, trainer, now author.

     
     
     
    • Lester
    • Founder and Principal, Linkedbiz Labs

    While interesting as a survey and a statistic, the sweeping conclusions drawn from this work are noteworthy for their inappropriateness. Besides the restricted nature of the sample used in the study (highlighted by another commenter), it is important to note that this is after all a survey of the 'perpetrators'. Could it not be that the 'creative', 'intelligent' people surveyed here were also more likely to confess their 'transgressions' in a research survey? Another important point is that what is the baseline imperative for the behavior being discussed? If adhering to the status quo (staying inside-the-box) is the baseline then by definition there cannot be much 'creativity'...and therefore most of the 'creative' people surveyed would be in violation. I seems to me that just as ethics and morality are defined in detail by any culture or heritage, the same is true for value systems that govern a profession. Therefore, the sweepin g conclusions proposed by the article are not well founded.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    It makes sense to me that in an academic, testing environment that intelligent, entrepreneurial people are going to question authority and the rules of the "game" and try to maximize their gain. And there is also likely a correlation between risk taking and creativity--which this study is surfacing. But I sincerely doubt that our prisons are full of evil creative geniuses. You look at most embezzlement and check fraud cases and the guilty party is generally the controller or an accountant, because more often than not we put the non-creatives in charge of the money..

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    it takes creativity to lie and lie credibly. the question is nt whether all creative people are immoral, the question is all good liars are creative.

     
     
     
    • jerry dackerman
    • Sr. Partner, Integral Performance Ltd

    Having been the CEO of several "creative" organizations in technology and advertising sectors, I read this article with great interest. Currently, our management consulting firm works in the area of high performance and as the source of creating extraordinary results, we work with clients on the importance and emergence of a culture based on "Integrity", meaning honoring oneself as ones word, not the honesty definition so often used. So we see the importance of bringing a new, expanded level of integrity in leadership to generate high performance in a sustainable way. I will give much thought to this thought provoking article in our work going forward. I believe that you are on to something here which can make a profound difference in organizations going forward. Thanks for this.

     
     
     
    • Sue D'Alessio
    • Director of Leadership, United Methodist Church, Cal-Pac Conference

    One aspect of creativity is the ability to move beyond (being flexible with) boundaries of conventional thinking - moving "outside the box" or letting go of the rules that guide/bind or finding/creating new patterns. So, too, in ethical dishonesty is a reflection of the "ability" to be flexible with boundaries about what is permissible behavior.

    Does this mean that the ability to be flexible in creative thinking also leads to the same kind of flexibility in ethics? Conversely, are unethical people more creative (I certainly have known some highly creative convicts)? From a different perspective, does maintaining strict boundaries in ethics diminish creativity? Are non-creative people more ethical? Do more highly creative people behave even less ethically?

    In our organization (church), we have strong ethical boundaries. We encourage creativity, inviting people into times and spaces where creativity is fostered with an understanding that ethical boundaries are still present. Now I'm going to pay more attention. Do the most creative people with whom I work also have challenges maintaining ethical boundaries? I'm going to have conversations with some of them, asking them how they negotiate between creativity and ethical boundaries.

    Thank you for this thought-provoking article.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    In my experience, the people who have a tendency to be unethical are those who are ambitious for power and influence but without the capability, intellect or creativity to continue progressing in their organizations. Lacking the needed capability, the most ambitious turn to "political" behaviour, frequently including manipulation to magnify their contributions and minimize the contributions of those who are creative, value-adding leaders and potential leaders. It would be interesting to actually test this perspective given it is so destructive to both people and organizations.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Sorry I am not buying this one. You start out with the premise, "it's rare to hear anyone described as both evil and unoriginal" I've rarely heard the words evil and original in the same description. I was also a bit confused with your findings that "the higher the creativity required for the job, the higher the level of self-reported dishonesty." Isn't that aiding the premised that the more creative you are, the more honest you are?

     
     
     
    • Val Vadeboncoeur
    • Director of Training, Idea Champions

    On second thought...

    There's also an issue brewing here with the very concept of "creativity."

    Who is a "creative" person?

    I think that by virtue of being human that we all are creative. Goes with the territory. If you get into a car, you expect an engine of some kind. When you get into a human being, you expect some ingenuity. (BTW, the words "engine" and "ingenuity" have a related etymology.)

    I think that some people may have used this innate power of creativity less than others in their lives. So, maybe we would call them the "uncreative" people. But that would be a distortion and a violation of who they really are and what they're really capable of being and doing. For example, a mother who is pressed for time and must cook a nutritious and tasty meal for her children and is able to concoct this despite a limited amount of ingredients in her refrigerator and cupboard is being no less "creative" than some successful advertising executive launching a successful sneaker campaign for Nike.

    I also think that societies employ many mechanisms of behavior control that tend to suppress emotions, empathy and creativity. Some people are more susceptible to this kind of suppression than others.

    Could it be that all people are born creative but that some people have learned to repress this innate ability more than others and while doing so have also suppressed other aspects of their selves that makes them more subservient to all kinds of authority, regulations and rules? Could THIS learned suppression account for any discrepancies in the behaviors between the so-called creative people and others?

    Now THAT would be a very interesting topic to research, in my opinion!

     
     
     
    • mark
    • sitting, meta-lucid

    Frankly, I find the whole premise of this investigation erroneous and not meaningful in the business world. I could writes pages on this. But qucikly. First one would have take issue with the definitions of creativity, innovation, and then onto morals, dishinesty andethics. Dont even go there. "how likely" is not the same as "I have" or "I will", it is so circumstantial and lose that the output is not worth the basis for the net stage of experiment. Also since when does a thoery become provable??!?!?! What does "largely proved" mean anyway?

    Whats a naturally creative person? Do university students as a sample provide the basis for business context. And so on and so on and so on.

    Then really what does this mean "these were simple studies, but they were powerful in showing that our ability to justify things is significantly greater if we are in a creative mindset or when we are creative people". Come on people!!!

    This one has gone into the trash can labelled "hokey pokey".

    Regards Mark

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    I'm don't agree that the simple studies imply the correlaiton you are making in your article, but I agree that ethical considerations are important whether or not you are creative. Seems a bit sensationalist to draw a tight correlation between innovation and dishonesty unless you have defined in advance what is and is not ethical.

     
     
     
    • Alejandro Golfari
    • CEO, Chemotecnica

    In my experiense unethicl behaiviour has more relationship with education, moral discipline or culture than with creativity. Maybe creative minds tend to create a more creative unethical behaiviour. In my case I have worked with very creative minds, chemists and R&D people which are very ethical.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Counting dots on one side of the line or the other doesn't seem to me to be a good measure of "ethical" or "unethical" behavior. Being able to apply a creative justification for why the dots were considered on the "paying" side of the line is actually a skill I'd like my employees to have. Not sure this study should extrapolate so broadly to claim to be a predictor of actual moral or ethical behavior.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Being creative is empowering - you are out thinking others, overcoming existing constraints, circumventing existing rules, paradigms, mindsets.

    Power ALWAYS corrupts. Degree of corruption correlates to the existing checks and balances on power.

    Creativity and corruption contributed to the 2008 financial meltdown. The Glass-Steagall Act, which was repealed in 1999, provided the checks and balances that separated banking and investment functions. The banking, insurance and brokerage industries were very creative in spending a reported 300 million to get the law repealed.

     
     
     
    • John Gaynard
    • Associate Lecturer, Open University Business School, U.K.

    The weakness in many pieces of research on creativity is that they begin with the presupposition, as in this case, that there is only one type of creativity, "out of the box" creativity. But humans are "problem solving animals" and many of the big and small "problems" we all solve on a daily basis are not done through innovative or out of the box thinking, but by adaptive creativity. See my blog post: "What is Creativity? Does a Definition Actually Exist?" at : http://johngaynardcreativity.blogspot.com/2009/07/does-one-definition-for-creativity.html

    I will need to check out the research but basing natural "creativity" on how well people can solve puzzles seems dubious.

     
     
     
    • Val Vadeboncoeur
    • Director of Training, Idea Champions

    "Creativity and corruption contributed to the 2008 financial meltdown. The Glass-Steagall Act, which was repealed in 1999, provided the checks and balances that separated banking and investment functions. The banking, insurance and brokerage industries were very creative in spending a reported 300 million to get the law repealed."

    Nonsense. That's not an example of "creativity." That's an example of organized crime and the corruption of government by financial elites. Just because these criminals labeled the repeal of "Glass-Steagall" and the creation of derivatives as "innovations" does not make it so. That was merely propaganda.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Great read - very interesting. While it was thought provoking, I think there are flaws in your test - for starters, these are self-reported responses and you have a very small test group in one select company.

    I would argue that creative 'types' are more likely to respond honestly as they don't inherently have the same fears in the workplace that more traditional "career-ists" have. They are not as worried about workplace expectations and perceptions. One might argue that they might be less likely to honestly self-report. (Someone in finance or legal might worry more about the ramifications of the survey and what it might mean to their own position, despite it being an anonymous survey).

    Also, surveying 99 people at one ad agency is also suspect. Each company has its own corporate culture and (perhaps) this one might have more creatives that like to take home office supplies than other companies. Perhaps in a company like State Street, or other large banking organizations, someone in 'finance' might be more likely to embezzle, or falsify reporting numbers.

    Additionally, an ad agency has many more creative types than almost any other organization so that might also skew your numbers.

     
     
     
    • Mark Lang
    • Executive Director, Charter Partners Institute

    My concern is that the conclusions here depend heavily on the definition of "creative." There is something to be said that the people in an advertising agency whose job is to make their product look good, which is inherently polishing at best and misleading at times, might also fudge something else. They may be constantly on the edge of ethical behavior.

    However, this is completely different than encouraging creativity in an organization. The later would better be labeled "innovation," which is finding creative ways to solve a problem. When done well, that process comes from a collaboration among a motivated team who believe in their cause. This process inherently requires trust to function effectively, and trust requires absolute transparency and honesty. In the later case, I would expect much less dishonest activity. So I will continue to encourage this kind of innovation.

     
     
     
    • mark sampson
    • grand exalted poobah, sampson industries

    to be creative you are inherently coloring outside of the lines. if you can't get there with conventional rules you gotta come up with other ways to get to where you want rather than not getting there. As Andy Warhol said, "move away from the center. declare that the center. and watch everyone circle around you." they put that Galileo dude under house arrest for his earth around the sun thing. called him a heretic rather than unethical.

    As said in the article: Management, highlight the importance of being creative and innovative, make sure that you're stressing the presence of ethics, too, structure the creative process in such a way that they can keep ethics in check, triggering the good behavior without triggering the bad behavior.

    This makes sense. In the vein of Caveat Emptor it should be Caveat Creat-Or - let the manager beware ... of the creative.

     
     
     
    • Tony Johnson

    It might be interesting in correlating creativity and compensation. Were Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Nobel prize winners more corrupt than the rest of mankind? Were Leonardo Di Vinci or Ernest Hemingway corrupt? Necessity is the "Mother" of invention.

    People are dishonest when they have something to gain.

     
     
     
    • Juan Aguirre
    • Chair for Entrepreneurship, Universiadad Latina Costa Rica

    To prove the issue raise is in itself some what ambigous and perhaps even dishonest. Was Maddox dishonest or was Wall Street dishonest by letting him get away with it. Moral values and value differences are to us the bases to judge morality or inmorality.

     
     
     
    • G.P.Rao
    • Founder Chairman., Spandan (Foundation for Human Values in management and society), India.

    Dishonesty can be hypothesied more to be related to intelligence than to creativity. Since creativity and intelligence are to a large extent coextensive, the relationship of intelligence with dishonesty; the difference between intelligence and creativity; as also whether creativity and intelligence are concurrent independent variables to dishonesty as dependent variable is to be verified. G.P.Rao.

     
     
     
    • Jack Slavinski
    • Technology Consulting

    Interesting. Wouldn't both the organizations cultural values and the senior leadership behaviors inside any firm tend to be a large contributing/determining factor of the outcomes here?

     
     
     
    • David Lindsay
    • Lecturer/Tutor, Edinburgh Napier University

    I would guess that it depends on the norm of "dishonest" behaviours -a student caught cheating in class may show entrepreurial behaviour but is clearly using unacceptable methods to gain advantage. What does being "creative" mean . In the military the phrase " Adapt, Improvise, Overcome" is legend due to the number of situations where there is no precedent or process to solve a problem. Are all entrepreneurs "dishonest"? Artists, Sculptors, Painters,Musicians? I think this is generic perception unfounded on anything but a few stray examples which do not make up the rule .

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    The methods used in this research are very creative ...which entails..wait what?

     
     
     
    • albert van daalen hbs'56
    • actively retired

    When graduating in '56 honesty and integrity were self-evident.The disturbing thing is that gradually dishonesty crept into our environment to become universal. The number of creative people increased since '56 ??? I have written to the various Harvard search committees since 1998 that we should look for three issues"honesty,integrity, greed" to stimulate public debate using the position of Harvard A prospective Dean might be in an ideal position to do this,as Dean Nitin Nohria is doing with the Hipocratic Oath.

     
     
     
    • Shamsher

    Very interesting findings. Challenging the rules and boundaries are something I see a natural part of out-of-the box thinking and creative mindset. It is being aware of when you cross the line and enter in the grey area and may be end up on the unethical side of it.

    From the managerial point of view the companies with high ethics as one of their key values I don't see it as a major problem. And the key learning from this as I understand is that you as a manager should be aware of the pitfalls in putting too much focus on encouraging the creativity in your organisations without emphasizing how important ethics are for the company. Most importantly when you design your compensation and benefit policies the key question is how much you reward creativity and how you punish unethical behaviour.

     
     
     
    • Mervyn Extavour
    • Lecturer/Student, Cipriani College of Labour & Cooperative Studies - T&T

    Very very interesting - as I continue my research on this topic of 'creativity' as a factor of 'innovation' - this article surely opens eyes as to the amount of validity that one conjures up in creating new vistas - or creating new spaces for action and interaction - which may mean doing some unorthodox things or even at times unethical. Gloriously interesting. to be innovative and creative it requires looking and thinking and acting 'outside the box. or even behind the box.

     
     
     
    • Akshayata
    • preparing for doctorate

    Dear Drs Gino & Ariely,

    that creativity and original thinking can and sometimes leads to unethical behaviour is not surprising at all...... only somebody who can "bend" the rules, make new neural connections, conect the dots ie be creative will naturally see how to "bend' the rules in real life. I myself used to enjoy bending rules. i used to be proud that i never had to repeat an excuse while lying in school, college/ office. i could come up with so many beleivable explanations. However as i moved from being an independent "me" oriented person to seeing the interdependence of things, people, events..... to an "us" person naturally with age and experience, i stopped my "excuses". To have the ability to be unethical and to be unethical are 2 different things. I firmly believe that having an "us" mindset is the only protection against unethical behaviour. I define the "us" as a sense of belonging to a larger group than your family or fri ends or co-workers. Even if most of us cant have the compassion of a Dalai Lama, we can atleast see that we are citizens of the same planet and thus interconnected. Would love to see researchers investigate this aspect of our internal attitude.

    Regards Akshayata

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Einstein, Edison, Da Vinci.... all big fat liers!

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Classifying creatives as unethical is being extreme. Of course, creatives can choose to be unethical. The choice depends on their core values and personality.

    They can see the loophole but decide to pursue their creativity in constructive ways such as to close them instead.

    The world owes the creatives.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    I would like to point out that the study was not limited to advertising agency employees (99) as many have incorrectly stated; further studies also looked at 182 university students. Please at least read the article properly!

     
     
     
    • Nick Jones
    • Art Director, McKinney

    Is it any surprise that out most creative people (our best actors, writers, musicians...) are more likely to be deceptive? The very thing that makes a good actor, storyteller, song writer/performer is what makes a good liar. It's their ability to make us believe them, especially when they're lying, that makes one better than another. Writing a true story is not by nature creative, though they can be told creatively. A story that is made up and effectively transports you to a made up world full of made up people is the highest, most celebrated form of creativity! We don't really believe that this ability to make one believe a lie will be reserved for works of performance art do we?

    How about we turn our focus to creative children? By the time creative adults become part of "organizations," they've established the way they manipulate and navigate the world. If, your whole life you've been celebrated for your creativity, there's a good chance that creativity will permeate your life. Without a firm moral foundation from an early age, you'll certainly bend the ethics and rules of society into a fantastic work of art.

    If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go make a video of my neighbors cat getting shot out of a potato gun. You'll ondoubtedly see it on YouTube by lunchtime tomorrow.

     
     
     
    • Jeff Barnum
    • Partner, Reos Partners

    What nonsense. The dot test does not describe a morality test; it is more likely tests one's willingness to risk. The creative people are more willing to guess wrong and gain 10X rather than guess accurately and only get X. There is no moral dimension to fudging answers on a dot question.

    The people who made this test obviously equate morality with following rules, either stated or implicit. Following rules doesn't make one moral. Truly moral action only stems from love for the deed--not playing by rules, laws, codes of behavior, etc.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Survivorship bias should be taken into account, as the "less creative" would be less successful in committing acts of dishonesty.

    Creative people also tend to find better channels to "get back" at the imbalance they may see in society, resulting in more material gains for themselves than the non-creative, and thereby getting more media attention.

     
     
     
    • Phoenix Alexander
    • Social Scientist

    The comment thread to this article offers more insight that may be useful to business leaders than the article itself, in its present form. I would strongly recommend that a business leader NOT view her/his creative employees differently because of this research.

    The article describes a study that was poorly designed from a number of perspectives -- from size and composition of the sample population to inappropriateness of the measures used to define key concepts. Logic flaws abound, and nothing has been proven. Think of being proven like being pregnant -- there is no "mostly" involved. Outside of mathematics, good science shies away from assertions of "proof," instead referring to experimental results that support or do not support a specific hypothesis or theory.

    Consequently, the findings mentioned in this article are highly suspect -- as well as being both inflammatory in general and degrading to the true and relatively rare high-creatives among us, those people who are responsible for much of the true innovation in our world. Simply: The article could use a good editor and peer review (or is this intended to be it?).

    I question whether the authors are measuring what they think they are measuring, at least as described here. Replace "dishonesty" with "self-interest," and "creativity" with "ability to see possibilities for self-interest" in their work, and you will be closer to the truth of what they have measured. As someone who has both taught university students and worked closely with ad copywriters, my experience has been that both groups rank high on self-interest. Self-interest can result in dishonesty, but it is not itself dishonest.

    But even dishonesty can have a positive benefit to society, and, given the proper context, is desirable: witness the actions of those souls who protected Jews and others from the Nazis during WWII. Their actions at the time were dishonest, creative, altruistic and, today, lauded.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    I think there might be something else to consider regarding the study at the ad agency. People were self-reporting unethical behaviour which is in and of itself an ethical act. For all we know, the non creative types could actually be engaging in even more unethical behaviour, but would not admit it. That's pretty unethical. I would be interested to see a follow on study looking at, as well, the correlation as well between self-reported unethical behaviour vs. actual unethical behaviour in creative and non creative types, if such a thing is possible.

     
     
     
    • Steve Partridge
    • Free Lance

    First I do not llike the comparison of the criminal mind with those who are creative and the reference to evil. There are plenty of creative people who have bucked the system to ensure new products are created safe gaurding jobs. It is evident the challenge is in the rewards money being the main motivating factor today.

    It is evident that those who cheat rise to the top quicker than those who play with a straight bat or by the rules.The game needs to change game theory needs looking at from an academic point of view.The system favours those in the club. What is needed is more creatives to come through the ranks in other words those with the Nelson touch. Merry Christmas.

     
     
     
    • Prasad Sundararajan
    • Researcher, Geniuschoice Institute

    The idea that creativity can easily be diverted into bad-evil-unethical waysis nothing new. In fact, it has been mentioned clearly in both the issues of Genius Choice. In fact in Genius Choice Book-02, I am [perhaps for the first time in history] arguing that "schools shall not nurture creativity" [page 65-66], that it is better to have 'mediocre majority' than 'creativity with indiscipline'.

    Every evil-unethical individual is creative. To lie and sustain that lie requires real creative thinking. To commit fraud and theft, malpractices of various kinds requires most of the core mindsets that characterise a creative individual also.

    The so-called good people are good and wait for the seat in heaven and do not develop their creativity. And. the inherently evil 'janmas' DEVELOP their creative intellect and responses by virtue of their sheer reqirement to trigger, evolve, and manage their evil behaviour and activities. By doing evil and fraudulent activities, they become creative.

    The 'manager' role holders in the study must have been already evil or unethical persons. And by assessment of the researchers, they must have found elements of creativity in them. That is all. The way [the WAY] the idea is conceptualised is creating the 'sensation'. The findings must have been reported somewhat like: bad managers or unethical managers were found to be creative ALSO.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Have the data been made publicly available? I am ready to buy the results, but I am personally convinced that disruptive results require sound and open screening from the community.

     
     
     
    • Carmen Nobel
    • senior editor, HBS Working Knowledge

    In answer to the question in comment #58: The original working paper by Gino and Ariely, which includes detailed information on the data, can be found here: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/11-064.pdf

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    I DID NOT READ YOUR ENTIRE ARTICLE, NOR WILL I. THATS BECAUSE YOUR ARTICLE ATTEMPTS TO TAKE A POSITIVE ATTRIBUTE. MENTAL POWER OR THE ABILITY TO THINK AND TRANSFORM IT TO A NEGATIVE? THERE IS NO CONCEPT OF EVIL GENIUS. JUST GENIUS. THE EVIL PART IS SOMETHING ELSE. IN OTHER WORDS IMPROPER CONDUCT IS NOT REASONABLE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. JESUS WAS A GENIUS, GHANDI WAS GENIUS, DR KING WAS A GENIUS AS ARE MOST INVENTORS. YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOUR ONE SIDED ARTICLE

     
     
     
    • Hector Touzet
    • Director, Plaen

    The problem is not the person or his creativity, but a defective working system. If it disregards the creative ideas, it will face either distorted creativity or good ideas going anywhere.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Albeit an interesting proposal, I think this is far from conclusive. Perhaps this study on creativity and dishonesty, like many other behavioral studies, demand more meticulously designed experiments with replicating results in order to be convincing to us humans.

     
     
     
    • Thoni Scola
    • Sales Director, Sunlit Technologies

    Indeed....I do believe when one thinks he is genius, a super-hyper-creative individual - sometimes, he tends to be arrogant and selfish... At this point - there is a fine-line to jump to be evil (or the dark-force...) This person thinks only in himself and he thinks he is indestructible...

     
     
     
    • anon
    • me, of me

    That's stupid, creativity doesnt induce moral flexibility..LOL! That's a pretty funny way to think about it...as if being creative somehow makes you a little unethical. hahaha In my eyes, creative people (i guess with low work ethic or wayward morals), when put up against a test, are able to find the shorter/easier/dishonest path. Less creative individuals come up with a blank. the creativity, or lack thereof, contributes nothing to your ethics alone, but if the person and situation was right, it couldd open up an ethical dilemma. the creativity doesnt imo help create the ethical dilemma, it merely opens ones eye to it. im shocked to find any respectable researcher would try to tie creativity and unethical behavior directly.......as if its something we need to fear. such medieval thinking. talk about how the lack of straight morals in this country (ex: radical & racist, yet religious individuals; etcetc) is creating all of the ethical issues. without clear and solid morals, a sense of conviction and responsibility, you are going to have a society that constantly cheats if they are able to (ie: if they are "smart" enough to.)

     
     
     
    • Kapil Kumar Sopory
    • Company Secretary, SMEC(India) Private Limited

    This is an interesting study but incomplete as well as fallacious in many respects. A sweeping statement on the professed dishonesty of creative ( this needs to be properly defined and understood) people is dangerous for creativity and innovation will receive little attention due to the label of dishonesty pasted on one who creates/innovates. Thus, progress would be retarded and there won't be any geniuses. As an offshoot to this, can we surmise that all non-creative people are necessarily honest? Not so. If honesty is the benchmark, these people will be so happyand satisfied that on one hand they do the minimal and on the other hand they receive laurels. And, escape any action despite their incompetence to utilize their faculties to the full. Creators are sharp. They do wonders for bringing about the needed improvements. However, some of them do mis-utilize their creativity for self good through dubious means. As they are intelligent, they do this cleverly. This applies to some but not all creators. For, if all creators were dishonest, mayhem would result. This is not the state of affairs around us..

     
     
     
    • Doris Delacruz
    • Dept. Head, CCentro Escolar University

    The result of the research is not so surprising. Creativity and morality are at two ends of a pole so to speak, insofar as mental disposition is concerned. Creativity requires loosening of boundaries while the exercise of moral judgment requires adherence to tightly reasoned out rules. In other words, the boundaries could indeed make a person less creative but not completely uncreative. It would be more to the corporation's best interest to ensure everyone in the organization adheres to some set of moral principles. This is to say creativity should have some boundaries.

     
     
     
    • jawaid aslam bajwa
    • controller of examinations, G C University Faisalabad, Pakistan

    Gino is right in his hypothesis that creativity and honesty are inversely proportionate but it may be in a situation where there is no check and balance or proper system of accountability. in American system of government where there is constitutional embargo, there is little likelihood of cheating of an intelligent person like Nixon, Carter and others. problem is not with creativity but with the system or the manager. if the rules of the management are clear and fair, creativity brings innovative and excellence.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Questions that this article raised for me: 1. I find it interesting that the study mentioned was counting as "dishonest" people that answered a survey "honestly" about the rules that they might be likely to bend in a given situation.

    1. When thinking about creatives as those people able to "think outside the box" then it stands to reason they might be interested/tempted to bend the rules a bit if the box mentioned were one not of their own creation - the box might be too restrictive if created solely by one who always follows the rules.

    2. I think that the idea around being ethical vs. dishonest bears further investigation. I think it is possible to be creative and also ethical. But, you have to be able to imagine a future landscape different than the one you are living in now, and in so doing must needs to break down some walls (ie. rules) of what are limiting factors.

    To my mind, it all goes back to a person's driving force/goals/aims/ethics/values. It is from this that a person's creative energy will take different forms and paths towards completion.

     
     
     
    • Syed
    • SrAssociate

    Creative people accepting their dishonesty is in fact the best honest response. However, I'd agree with the square-diagonal-dot experiment.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Well to began with, dishonesty require a level of creativity. 1. Is the individual dishonest because is creative? or is creative because is dishonest? 2. when we refer to creativity, are all creativity equal, I mean, do all type of creativity develop same response to a situation? (do a mathematician, a philosopher, a righter or a business individual will respond the same to the opportunity of dishonesty?) 3. What is the percentage of dishonesty among the general public, versus educated individuals and creative individuals? 4. Is dishonesty a product of creativity, opportunity, necessity, .......? 5. Is dishonesty always for personal gain? The way I see the article, appears to me to be a prove to a preconceive idea, it is possible that non creative individuals get caught more frequently, of cause we will never know. The authors of the study seams to be quite creative individuals and I can see the honesty of the study, but I don't see a clear conclusion that, creative individual are more dishonest, dishonest to what is never establish, they do indicate a higher level of self reported dishonesty as the level of responsibility and creativity increases in the individual. It is an interesting question, considering the level of dishonesty shown on certain groups before and during the existing economic crises, but to link creativity to dishonesty through all groups and activities, to me, is to broad, to much a generalization.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    What about Google encourage creativity yet set out the company's mission as Do No Evil? Isn't it setting the ethical boundary and can still generate creativity?

     
     
     
    • Ed

    Could be the researchers where measuring creativity in dishonest peole. To be successfully dishonest you need to find creative ways to disguise your dishonesty???

     
     
     
    • surendra
    • independent innovator

    Creative people are not extra territorial beings or gods,they belong to the same society & influenced by its happenings good or bad as the non creative people .The creative people may deeply ponder upon the unethical side & come out with the ideas not welcome by the society at the prevailing situation,but may be appreciated by the forthcoming generations,as it was in the case of Galileo.

     
     
     
    • Carl Nielson
    • Corporate Consultant, The Nielson Group

    The claims in this article were so outrageous I decided to run a quick correlation. I used two samples of N=23 and N=151. I looked at measures including Personal Accountability Creativity and 8 others for the 23 sample size. For the 151, I used Personal Accountability, Integrative Ability, Intuitive Decision Making, Problem Solving, Theoretical Problem Solving, Internal and External Reliability and Taking Responsibility. There is no correlation (not even a hint) to Creativity being predictive of Dishonesty. Harvard? Really?

     
     
     
    • Khadija Khan
    • President, Pakistan Evaluation Network

    What I understand from the examples out of financial and business spheres of work that corruption is perhaps related to creative practices and objects introduced to the public to fleece money. Generally, the financial/accounting systems are relatively more disciplined and better regulated than natural and human sciences. The scams that took place in this arena, to some extent, were the result of lax oversight by the regulators. The unchecked spread of innovative financial practices and packages, in my view was less to do with creativity than with greed to amass wealth by the corrupt managers and vested interest of regulators in protecting them. On the other hand, we have thousands of examples of people with creative talents who have done (and are doing) great service to humanity, such as Steve Jobs.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    It is inevitable that the rising of one's creativity can eventually lead to the inculcation of unethical behaviors. This simply happens when a person who figures out his creativity is beyond human's reach and he's the potent one to bring this change to the whole world, he starts thinking really big. That's where villains are born. For example, I read a book on Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as my literature text. From this particular book, it is concluded that Dr Jekyll was the most innovative and creative person. He uses intelligence to create his alter ego, or his miniature, Mr Hyde. However, as his pride grows on the account of his success in creating Mr Hyde, he uses it to indulge in evil pleasures, resulting in committing suicide at the end.

     
     
     
    • Pramita
    • grm, GLR Intl

    Yes its true. so the challenge is about using the genius to focus on constructive creativity. look at any 4 year old around you and you have the answer - give him toys, he may break them. but give him clay or a picture book, he will be engrossed in them.

     
     
     
    • John Evans
    • Tutor, The Open University

    There is a line of thought to be investigated here...but great care is needed. Is it "creativity" that is on trial, or other states such as optimism, happiness, and positive thinking...there is now plenty of evidence emerging that there is a great possibility that it is optimism and positive thinking, especially in the business community, that creates a 'dishonest' mindset. It's not really about "ethics" it's about being honest with oneself and colleagues that the evidence in front of you MAY WELL not stack up....rather than hoping it will and making a wrong decision? The seeds of the 2008 crash were sown in this area of thinking, and we need more work on it.

     
     
     
    • Taat Subekti
    • Chairman, Dharma Shanti Foundation

    TO a certain degree, it may be true, because creative people, especially in the fields of science, technology, or in creative design sometimes can not be totally honest. First, they may try to restrict themselves. As we know, many creative people sometimes are labeled as eccentric, think the impossible or think that does not need to be thought. So in this case, they may try to hide themselves for not being labeled as such by people who do not understanding they way of their thinking. Secondly, especially in creative design world, many creative people are dishonest intentionally to protect their idea of conceptual design stolen by other people.

     
     
     
    • Ravindra Edirisooriya
    • P/T Accountant, Midwestern Small Business

    Passed sixth and seventh degree markers a week ago. I am not a manager but I have acted as a manager in a few occasions. I am on my way to becoming a manager.

    Professors Gino and Ariely have raised a very important question about possible covariance of creativity and dishonesty. It is my understanding that unethical behavior (lack of ethical responsibility) in people is an effect of dishonesty which is a function of time, creativity, pressure to create (or perform), physiological traits, psychological traits, and false assumptions /incomplete information. The three outcomes to the question "Are creative people more dishonest?" are "Yes", "No" and "It depends". If the answer is "NO", then unbridled creativity is the way to best solutions to our earthly (market, industrial, institutional governance, political, social, and environmental) problems, without any regulation. Furthermore, we may deregulate all markets and industries. If the answer is "Yes" or "It depends" then bridled creativity is the way to best solutions to our earthly problems, with a reasonable re gulatory structure. However, regulation will not solve the problem of dishonesty since creativity trumps regulation. Hence, one may be compelled to seek the best solutions in the domain of time, pressure to create (or perform), physiological traits, psychological traits, and false assumptions /incomplete information.

    The most difficult to overcome (control /screen) is false assumptions (incorrect perceptions of the state of a system) /incomplete information (unknown and unknowable). Humanity appeared on earth merely a few hundred thousands of years ago compared to a few billions of years gone by since the formation of the earth. Human creativity (and some chance outcomes) had propelled humanity to efficient levels of functionality and greater (but not total) understanding of nature (from the deepest ocean to the furthest galaxy in the cosmos). Yet, human creativity (has brought humanity and /or) has so far failed to find the best solutions to our current perilous economic, institutional governance, political, social and environmental problems. As we observe in nature, every system /species has a failure /extinction date ("tagged on" perhaps unknown to us) and humanity has no exception. Humanity has a window of about 50 years (say till 2060) to come up with the best solutions to our current economic, institutional governance, political, social and environmental problems. Humanity has given birth to a hierarchy of divisions among humans along with their creativity which is consuming most of the humanity's energy, treasure and creativity: humans fighting (competing against?) humans on every known division to humanity. If the political, religious and social leaders of our nation and the world today will not forge strategic (grand) alliances (leading to meaningful change) and free up humanity's energy, treasure and creativity to achieve the best solutions to our perilous problems (and not seek economic slavery of some citizens or religious supremacy of a religion or national supremacy of a nation or racial supremacy of a race or ethnic superiority of an ethnicity or ideological supremacy of an ideology or ...), the odds of survival of humanity on this green earth (before humanity could migrate to other worlds) is very slim to none. Is anybody listening?

     
     
     
    • Roy Bhikharie
    • Managing-director, Papaya Media Counseling

    As far as I know, only phenomenological research can determine cause and effect, whose results cannot be generalized, and the current investigation appeared to be a statistical one. Creative people may have an advantage over non-creative people, but for better or for worse, because both types can resort to unethical behaviors when they lack (intrinsic) satisfaction, which depends on other personality variables. Shaping employees' wants through authoritarian ethics and those of consumers through marketing (thus to fit business needs), for example, instead of providing for their deficit and growth needs, has fragmented cognition and all its possible consequences. So the question about how to encourage creativity while discouraging unethical behavior is not relevant. Stimulating creativity is matter of education/training, engagement and dedication. Unethical behavior can be discouraged by balancing intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, whe ther or not one has a creative disposition.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Your emphasis on the creativity factor caught my attention. The ambiguity aspect of dishonesty associated with it allowed me halt with and question its validity. Yes, I had to be honest with myself. And it was only because of this article, that I was able to shed light on the consequence factors that have often resulted with termination due to my poor judgement; a bad behavior (my self-esteems pac-man)Thanks. This article was the glass of cold water that splashed its message on in my face...with the "MrPenguin wearing his authoritative presence shouts... "WAKE-UP KALEIDOSCOPIC BEAUTY"...and it's your turn to shine.

    juanita

    k needed a wake-up call.

     
     
     
    • Virginia

    In relation to the dots experiment, participants were informed of a reward (money) based on the determination of more dots on one side of the sheets in those they viewed. It is presumed the compensation was received personally. What would outcome be if the greater reward were to be awarded to a philanthropic entity and the study participants informed of this? Would sheer 'gain' no matter what it supported -- individual or societal -- lead to the same results reported?

    What would happen if individuals faced the same evaluation of report of distribution of dots when 'not' informed of any advantageous outcome from report of a majority of dots appearing to the right side and simply asked to furnish their opinion as to the placement of dots?

    More accuracy in report of the actual location of the dots? In business context, additionally, for a third scenario.....what would prove results reported by the 'creative' vs the noncreative persons 'if'participants were told the company was in competion or comparison to other firms for award of a job based on the employees abilities overall at 'accurate' reporting on which side they viewed the actual dot placement?

    Would altruistic leanings, to come out in the second experiment running, and/or community identity to the company they worked as part of result for creative/and non in more accurate or literal reporting?

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    I have found that the creative people are the victims of "cheating" by those that are in positions of power by what amounts to stealing the creative person's intellectual property and passing it off as their own. Integrity is integrity is integrity. Either you have it or you don't. I would venture to say many "empty suits" that operate without a creative thought in their brain operate on style and not substance and those are in fact the folks that get rewarded by corporate america until they eat away at the core of the organization but by the time they are found out the damage has already been done.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    Ok, if the creative people answering the questionnaire are admitting that they would do something unethical, wouldn't that, then, be honest? Hmmmmm.

     
     
     
    • Anonymous

    I find it hard to believe that Harvard would accept someone with such a closed minded perception of the world. What a stretch to try to connect creativity with dishonest behavior. So does this means that all companies will not hire creative people now and use this study as an excuse to discriminate against creative people. Come on Harvard, you can find more creative studies than this can't you? - from an honest, creative person, who is proud to be one of those who can think outside the box to find solutions and new inventions for society.

     
     
     
    • Webslinger

    From the study itself: "When their motivation to think outside the box is heightened, individuals may find creative loopholes to solve difficult tasks they are facing, even if that entails crossing ethical boundaries."

    He who finds it is more likely to use it; like that saying about power, responsibility and how great they are together. This is like a study that concludes that bigger dogs are statistically more likely to deal serious bite wounds, or that people who went to Harvard are more likely to declare wars: telling us what we already know, and not at all incriminating of the group in concern when reduced to its bare logic.

    However.

    Firstly: Why quantify a conclusion that is already borne just fine by easy logic and label it with a school seal?

    Secondly: While the conclusion is innocuous, why choose to present it as inflammatory and new under your seal? "Dark Side of Creativity": yipes. A lot of people picked up on this and were upset or "enlightened".

    Why is there such a thing as sensationalism, in any print? Food for thought.

    P.S.: Social science with a testing pool restricted to those who have ascended into higher education and/or the media sector is not even "social".