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EMAC 2022 Annual

Do you want to be creative? Be stupid first

Published: May 24, 2022


Tatiana Karpukhina, WU Vienna; Martin Schreier, WU Vienna; Ayelet Fishbach, University of Chicago Booth School of Business


Creativity is a quality valued and desired by most in personal and professional life. Muse is a fickle creature: quite often, we find ourselves without inspiration, unable to come up with creative ideas. Within the concept of creative problem-solving as search through cognitive space, lack of inspiration can be defined as one’s fixation on one area of the space: the status quo. In this research we test a straightforward technique allowing to break this fixation and thus boost creativity. In four studies, employing classical creativity tasks, and usual personal and professional life problems, we find that contrary to a common intuition, starting an ideation process by generating some “stupid” ideas significantly increases creativity of the final ideas. We demonstrate that this effect occurs because generation of “stupid” ideas first, allows to break the gravity of the fixation and explore the broader solution space freely, resulting in more creative final ideas.