The dog ate my policy proposals

Silvio Berlusconi was a bass player and cruise ship crooner. Tony Blair played guitar in a band called Ugly Rumours. Bill Clinton played the saxophone.

Notice a link?

Apparently, there is a “dark side to creativity”, according to a new working paper by Francesca Gino and Dan Ariely. They ran five experiments to test whether creative people are more likely to be dishonest, because they are better at finding creative ways to break the rules and find it easier to creatively justify their actions to themselves, and perhaps others.

People working in creative jobs are more likely to be “morally flexible”. So beware artists, actors and writers (this blogger excluded, obviously. No creativity going on here).

Just priming people to think more creatively can encourage people to behave more dishonestly. So if your company has just added “creative” or “innovative” to its mission statement, keep an eye on the office supplies.

People encouraged to be creative also found it easier to justify their actions. Which adds an interesting angle to the following statements (please note that I am not of course insinuating that any of these statements are in any way untrue):

The only crime committed by the women at the “bunga bunga” parties was “to give me friendship and affection”, according to Silvio Berlusconi, who also described the evenings’ events as “elegant”, and er, “tranquil”.  

“I ask you to accept one thing. Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right”, the ever-earnest Tony Blair, May 2007

Following the infamous “I did not have sexual relations” statement, Bill Clinton later said: “I thought the definition included any activity by [me], where [I] was the actor and came in contact with those parts of the bodies”

Hmm.

You can read the working paper here: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/11-064.pdf

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