Failure should be avoided, right? So why is sometimes attractive to be dishonest? And what does telling lies say about our personality?
These are some of the questions raised by a new article in Businessweek called Are Creative People More Dishonest?. Journalist Caroline Winter writes:
“We found a positive correlation,” says [researcher] Gino. “The more creativity required on the job, the more unethical behavior was self-reported.” Note: Subsequent studies seem to indicate that these findings weren’t simply a result of more honest reporting on the part of creative employees.
This isn’t to say that graphic designers are necessarily more dishonest than, say, accountants. Creative types are simply “at a higher risk for behaving unethically because they can more easily find reasons why their behavior is not problematic,” says Gino. In other words, original thinkers aren’t more ethically depraved than the rest of us; they’re just better equipped to find ways of being dishonest without compromising their own self-regard.
This might want to make you run out and lock the supply cabinet so that your artistic staff don’t rob you blind. But that shouldn’t be the message at all. The study doesn’t say anything at about self-control. Rather, it just says that creative people find ways to cheat that less creative folks don’t ever dream of.
The profound insight comes when you put these findings in reverse. If creative people are more dishonest because they can brainstrom a wider range of unsavory methodologies, perhaps you can become more creative by fantasizing about a life of crime. Isn’t this exactly what the world’s foremost law enforcement, military and security experts do every day? They have to dream up ways to break the system so they can defend against them.
Failure is the secret to success. If you want to expand your mind, think of ways to cheat. If you want to stop the flow of criminal activity, think like a criminal. Expect that you’ll have to at least entertain negative thoughts to find positive solutions. Doing something bad is often the only way to ensure that you can do something good.
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