The Creativity Paradox: Desire and Rejection of New Ideas

Innovative marketers aim for new ideas and creative solutions. Agencies are hired for their creativity and disruptive approaches. So, most agency briefings start with bold requests for new approaches and a strong call for breakthrough thinking.

But the seeming appetite for breakthrough ideas is often dampened by an innate fear of them. This paradox was recently uncovered in a study published by Cornell University and titled “The Bias Against Creativity: Why People Desire But Reject Creative Ideas.”


According to the study done by Jennifer S. Mueller from the University of Pennsylvania, Shimul Melwani from the University of North Carolina, and Jack A. Goncalo from Cornell University, people express their wish for new ideas but reject them for two reasons:

  1. They want to avoid uncertainty. Rejection of new ideas is a rejection of uncertainty. People avoid risks and aim for stability.
  2. They are not able to identify new creativity. Ability to identify creativity is one of the most important management skills for the future.

As an agency and as a client-centered organization, we at Ketchum are asked to help our clients overcome this bias. But this is easer said than done. At Ketchum, our credo to stand out with good ideas and prove everything may help with this hurdle. But a great idea rarely waves its hand and says hello. So, how might we identify creative ideas?

Here is my checklist.

A creative idea is . . .

  1. Disruptive not destructive.
  2. Surprising not irritating.
  3. Never done before, but with some familiar elements.
  4. Instantly effective and memorable.
  5. Easy to understand and easy to evaluate.

What do you think? . . .