Which Creative Idea Will Succeed? Can We Predict It?

By Shlomo Maital   

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     Can you predict which creative ideas will succeed and which will fail?   There is a great deal of research on how to foster creative ideas – but much too little on implementation and choosing good ideas and dumping bad ones. A recent article in Administrative Science Quarterly, latest issue (2016),   the leading organizational behavior journal, sheds light on this. [1]

     Here are the main findings:

  • Using both a field study of 339 professionals in the circus arts industry and a lab experiment, I examine the conditions for accurate creative forecasting, focusing on the effect of creators’ and managers’ roles.
  • In the field study, creators and managers forecasted the success of new circus acts with audiences, and the accuracy of these forecasts was assessed using data from 13,248 audience members. Results suggest that creators were more accurate than managers when forecasting about others’ novel ideas, but not their own.

This is a crucial finding. Entrepreneur: You are NOT not good at forecasting the success of your own ideas.   Get help. Get feedback. Validate, validate, validate. Your own passion about your change-the-world idea is often misleading.   Check it out.

  • Results from the lab experiment show that creators’ advantage over managers in predicting success may be tied to the emphasis on both divergent thinking (idea generation) and convergent thinking (idea evaluation) in the creator role, while the manager role emphasizes only convergent thinking.

   In our (Ruttenberg and Maital) model of creativity, “zoom out” (divergent thinking) and “zoom in” (convergent thinking) must be used together, sequentially. Managers use mainly zoom-in. And hence, according to Berg, they often get it wrong. Creators use both.

     One conclusion?   Innovation managers must cultivate more zoom-out thinking. Open the windows, and the doors, managers!   The nature of your job is such that you tend to keep them closed, and lose crucial information and make bad decisions as a result.

   This helps explain why creative thinking is hard to sustain. As organizations grow, they become ‘convergent’…focused, narrowly.   And they lose innovative spark. Solution? Open the windows!

[1] Balancing on the Creative Highwire: Forecasting the Success of Novel Ideas in Organizations, by Justin M. Berg