A Study co-authored by Johns Hopkins Carey Business School Assistant Professor Meng Zhu finds that when it comes to Creativity, less can be more. The study was co-authored by Ravi Mehta from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
The research examines the relationship between two modern truths: More resources are available to consumers than ever before, and the value of creativity in aspects of society is rising. The study also raises the question of “has a proliferation of resources led to a more creative world?”
According to the study, the answer is maybe not, rather suggesting that Creativity Thrives on the perception of Scarcity. The research suggests that someone’s perception about the scarcity or abundance of resources (as opposed to the actual availability of resources) has a strong influence on creative output.
Zhu and Mehta wrote in the study that:
“Contrary to common belief, abundant resources may have a negative effect on creativity. We found that scarcity forces consumers to think beyond the traditional function of a given product and enhances creativity.”
The report states that exploring perception is important because,
“consumers are frequently exposed to scarcity cues in daily decision environments, and these encounters could impact their Mindset and carry over to subsequent events where creativity may be called for.”
In order to get these results, six experiments were conducted with participants randomly divided into three groups based on their mindset activated in the experiment: a scarcity mindset, an abundance mindset, and a control group. These mindsets were created before participants were asked to complete a creative task, such as building a candle holder from a box of tacks, to a toy-building competition using Lego-like building pieces. Participants exposed to a scarcity mindset were repeatedly judged by both subjective, independent judges and objective measures to have developed the more novel products and solutions.
In conclusion, the report states that,
“These findings have important implications for industries that thrive on the creativity of their employees and consumers, such as home décor or fashion. More broadly, the findings pose a significant cultural question: as societies become more abundant, do average creativity levels decrease? Thinking ‘inside the box’ could come at a considerable cost,” the authors conclude.
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