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?
Making art often means getting out of the comfort zone. Alan Henry of Lifehacker explains the science of breaking out of your comfort zone: Routine and patterns minimize risk. Making something scares us. Creating something inherently feels risky. Who knows if it'll be good? The comfort zone feels happy with low anxiety and low stress. This is why most people never make anything. Optimal Anxiety Slight anxiety helps us. "Optimal Anxiety" increases performance. Too much stress and we do poorly. Comfort is the opposite of productivity. Volunteering as a designer helps me escape my routine. It can feel stressful, yet ... Read more
"Is it really good to be Generalist? Will it pay-off someday as it does for Specialists? Recently came across this interesting article on Harvard Business Review: All Hail the Generalist. And was wondering what is the general verdict on this topic." Anonymous (via Quora) I majored in fine art with concentrations in both fine art and piano. I remember my advisor and a trusted artist professor told me that I needed to pick a single route and focus. At this point I had really decided art was my route. Piano performance was too risky if I tied it to my financial future. I'd worry about ... Read more
Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.