Does entitlement lead to creativity?

senseofentitlementNormally when we think of entitlement it’s rarely done in a positive way.  We might think of someone being a brat or something of a queen bee.  A recent study suggests however that such behavior may have one silver lining to it in that it might make us more creative.

This is a topic I touched on last year, after a study found that headstrong people tend to be essential for innovation that breaks the mold or when the innovation is born into an un-supportive environment.

In other words, if your culture is supportive of ideas and innovation, being a jerk works against you.  If the culture isn’t supportive however, being forceful can be required to push your ideas through.

The latest research doesn’t so much explore the implementation of ideas as it does the generation of ideas to begin with.  In particular, it looks at whether a sense of entitlement helps with that process.

“When people feel more entitled, they will think and act differently than others, and the more they do so, the more willing and able they will be to generate creative solutions,” the authors write.

Participants were recruited to undertake a series of four distinct experiments.  Each of the experiments would generally prime the participants to believe themselves to either be entitled (or not), before then undertaking particular creativity based tasks.

The results revealed that not only were those primed to believe themselves entitled generating more ideas than their peers, but those ideas were also generally of higher quality.  The authors believe this is largely linked to their desire to stand out from the pack.

“When participants felt entitled, they wanted to be different from others, and the more they wanted to be different, the more creative they became,” they suggest. “The entitled individuals’ need for uniqueness seemed to enable them to diverge from the common meanings of the words, which benefited their performance.”

The authors do however caution that entitlement is not a good thing if it is somewhat more permanent.  They suggest that a more permanent characteristic of this nature is likely to lead to negative outcomes at work.  The key therefore is to try, somehow, to engender a fleeting sense of entitlement in people.

“Thus, our results suggest that small, temporary boosts in entitlement can facilitate creativity, while a chronically entitled disposition does not help and might even backfire on the exact same tasks,” the authors conclude.

If entitlement is better for generating ideas, and being headstrong is often required to push ideas through, it doesn’t paint a great picture for innovators being nice guys, does it?

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