A recent article in the National Post; 29 December, 2011; pages B1 and B2 explore the implications of some recent research by Francesca Gino (and research associates) on this topic. Her research suggests that creative people are more apt to cheat, lie and justify immoral actions.
Her sense of why this happens is fascinating and I highly recommend anyone who is interested in ethics in the organization avail themselves of this work.
For this post I am interested in the implications for talent management and the desire for a creativity value in many organizations.
First let’s deal with the values issue. I hold the view that any decision and action we make and undertake exposes us to somewhat discrete set of uncertainties and risks. Therefore, I always suggest that when we explore what values we should adopt for our respective organizations, we should consider what the “dark side of the force is”.
Creativity is truly one of those values that has a dark side. Up until I read about the above mentioned research, I would have suggested that depending upon the organization’s business and business model having creativity may be extremely disruptive (for organizations that value consistency, reliability and predictability above most anything else. Also creativity can be a huge turn-off if the organization does not really need it or want it. People who take the espoused value of creativity at face value, quickly learn a powerful lesson in organizational culture. We have all observed how disruptive “turned-off cynical” people can be within organizations.
But now we have a new disruptive aspect to creativity. It may lead to lying, cheating and stealing. This reinforces for me the operational value of not ascribing to any value that does not clearly and directly support effective and appropriate business operations (means and ends).
Second, the implications for talent management. We should source highly creative talent only in roles that require this ability. What does this mean in practical terms? At the very least it may mean we do not hire/contract with/etc. the best candidate because they are the most creative.
How many organizations always strive to hire the “best talent”? Be careful of what you reap if you are successful.
Are there situations where hiring the very best is necessary? Of course. I would always encourage this in your critical/pivotal roles. These are roles where superior performance elevates the performance of others around them (i.e., part of the same business process). the key here is what are the critical attributes that make the best the best in any specific critical/pivotal role? Being creative may be irrelevant or even detrimental (I leave it to the reader to consider what circumstances would warrant this risk).
What roles or business process circumstances would I generally be leery of with highly creative people in them? Compliance ensuring, fastidious centric, process justice oriented and the like business roles and situations.
Where would high level creativity come into play with such roles and circumstances? When and where it is seen that the current approaches are becoming dysfunctional in some form or other.
Obviously, organizations can implement various performance management systems that amongst other things monitor for inappropriate behavours. However, the best performance management system is the one that minimizes the likelihood of the undesired occurring in the first place. This is the realm of uncertainty and risk management where we make choices based not only on what benefits we can expect but also what uncertainties and risks we increase our exposure to with these choices.