The Myth Of Creativity

This is Robin Hanson going at it again, this time in Business Week:

The Myth Of Creativity: “Make no mistake: Innovation matters. Nothing is more essential for long-term economic growth. But to get more innovation we may want less, not more, creativity.

The sobering truth is that the dramatic artistic creations or intellectual insights we most admire for their striking ‘creativity’ matter little for economic growth. Creative new clothes or music may change fashion, but are soon eclipsed by newer fashions. Large and lasting economic innovations, like steam engines or cell phones, are rare and tend to be independently ‘invented’ by many people. One less visionary would matter little.

Instead, the innovations that matter most are the millions of small changes we constantly make to our billions of daily procedures and arrangements. Such changes do not require free-spirited self-expression. Instead, people quite naturally think of changes as they go about their routine business and social lives.
(…)
“To succeed in academia, my graduate students and I had to learn to be less creative than we were initially inclined to be. Critics complain that schools squelch creativity, but most people are inclined to be more creative on the job than would be truly productive. So schooling is mostly about selecting the smarter and more diligent, and learning to show up day after day to somewhat boring jobs with ambiguous instructions.

What society needs is not more creativity or suggestions for change but better ways to encourage people to focus on important issues, identify the most promising ideas, and tell the right people about them. But our deification of creativity gets in the way.”

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