Warning: Success Hampers Creativity

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New research claims that successful inventors become less creative over time.

R&D managers interested in increasing the creative output of their departments should be aware that successful inventors could become less creative over time, warn the authors.

In their study, they find that inventors who have experienced success in their efforts to patent their inventions continue to generate new patents but, over time these patents tend to be less divergent from their previous work. This finding implies that allocating more resources to the most prolific inventors may increase the productivity of their department, but it may diminish the extent to which their creative output reflects the exploration of new areas of research.

The negative effects of success on creativity can be managed, say Professors Audia and Goncalo, by encouraging inventors to collaborate with one another and by making "exploration" an explicit and desirable organizational goal.

My friend Kris Kimel who runs the IdeaFestival put the conference together for to solve exactly this kind of problem. New ideas can come from anywhere, and it's important to occasionally "play around" and explore other areas of knowledge. In a world that changes rapidly, myopic innovation doesn't get you much.