Creativity is valued as one of the most important qualities that a leader can have, yet research has shown that while creative people are skilled at coming up with new ideas, they can also be more likely to engage in morally questionable behaviors.
Researchers Francesca Gino at Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely at Duke University conducted a set of experiments to test whether a creative personality and a creative mindset promote individuals’ ability to justify their behavior, which, in turn, leads to unethical behavior. The results of the experiments provided evidence for an association between creativity and dishonesty.
In another study, Lynne C. Vincent at Syracuse University and Maryam Kouchaki at Northwestern University found that identifying as a creative person can also lead someone to be dishonest. When creativity is viewed as a rare attribute, it can lead to a sense of entitlement. Leaders reinforce such an attitude by giving creative people special treatment.
Vincent and Kouchaki note that creative people just don’t think outside the box, they believe that they deserve a bigger box than others, and as a result might be willing to steal or lie.
So what is a company to do?
The researchers suggest that leaders should try and create a culture of creativity throughout an organization, and not promote the notion that creativity is limited to just a few individuals.
By actively encouraging more people to view themselves as creative, while clearly defining what is considered unacceptable behavior, a company should be able to see the bright side of creativity.
Or put a simpler way, honesty is the best policy, even for creative people.