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Why Managers Squash Great Creative Ideas And Bet On Bad Ones

Source | FastCompany : By William Craig

Creativity is the lifeblood of every successful company. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in: If you want to stay competitive, your organization needs to cultivate creative ideas and be set up in order to execute them.

That’s where the trouble lies. Recognizing a creative idea with solid ROI potential can be tough. Justin Berg, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, recently studied this issue in order to find out just how often the most potentially successful creative ideas get overlooked. And to do that, Berg went to the circus.

 
Photo: Mariana Oliver/Flickr user Focka

It’s A Circus Out There

Berg worked with Lena Gutschank, a veteran of the circus arts industry, and James Tanabe, former creative director for Cirque du Soleil. The circus arts industry follows a similar creative process to many others: Creatives develop concepts based on what they know about audiences, and strategy heads decide which ideas get the go-ahead.

With Gutschank and Tanabe, Berg studied how effective circus arts managers were at evaluating those concepts’ potential for success relative to the assessments of the creatives who’d come up with them. The research involved 150 circus act videos, 339 creative and managerial circus professionals, and 13,000 audience members.

By showing groups of circus professionals videos of creative acts and having them predict how each video would do in terms of shares, likes, and eventual monetary support, Berg was able to study who was most likely to accurately forecast each creative concepts’ potential success.

It turned out that managers—those with more decision-making power—weren’t any more effective at determining the ROI of creative ideas than their inventors. Instead, it was the creative professionals’ peers who proved most likely to know a successful idea when they saw it. Even managers who’d been promoted from creator roles were less successful at identifying creative ideas with strong ROI potential.

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