Today’s Q&A Monday question asks about the link between hardship and creativity:
What is the quality of the science behind the idea that “hardship increases creativity”?
While artists and engineers can both grow by playing intellectual games with artificial constraints, is real hardship actually correlated with increased creativity and productive output?
The linked piece by Eric Weiner for The LA Times is written as an opinion piece. It’s written in that context. That said, some people who experience hardship are certainly able to channel that creatively:
- An article in Scientific American cites one preliminary study of those involved in the Rwandan Genocide. 61% of participants found no change in creativity. A moderate increase in creativity was self-reported by 25% of those involved.
- A series of studies found that a history including social rejection could fuel creative output. Those who self-reported an increase in creativity also noted having a need for uniqueness. They were decidedly against blending in. The authors conclude that if an individual has an”independent self concept”, they will feel more rewarded creatively by rejection. Those who don’t view themselves as more independent will not have the same effect. They are fueled by other motivators.
- A paper published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that experience any weird, unexpected, or unusual event may have the same effect
However, these experiments show that creativity can be boosted by hardship. They did not find hardship necessary for creativity. Workplaces also have other factors that pure creativity: happiness, retention, and profit. Many creative workers who are simply don’t want hardship. They won’t tolerate it. The economics of business development are more complicated than simple creativity.
Many “fun” perks are popular in industries where employees have many job options. They’re also often designed to keep employees within the office longer. Even if these employees are not purely working at all times. Making longer office hours more acceptable may generate increased overall productivity.
Amenities may be a consolation prize for the other hardships involved in very difficult work.
Readers, have you had a difficult experiences that helped with your creative projects?
Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.