We are biased against creativity. Though most people say they admire creativity, research indicates we actually prefer inside-the-box thinking.
“In an article for Slate, Jessica Olien debunks the myth that originality and inventiveness are valued in US society: “This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don’t actually like it.” She cites academic studies indicating that people are biased against creative minds. They crave the success of the result, but shun the process that produces it.”
—Sarah Kendzior, The View From Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America
The meeting industry is no exception. We define creativity as a subset of what is actually possible. A “creative” event design is one with a novel venue and/or decor and lighting and/or food and beverage. Consequently, planners restrict the entire focus of creative event design to novel visual and sensory elements. The meeting industry has redefined novelty as creativity.
Truly creative event design
We are biased against truly creative event design. Watering down creativity biases stakeholders against the value and promise of truly creative event design, which:
- Starts with the key questions “who’s it for?” and “what’s it for?”
- Moves to “what should happen?“; and finally
- Takes a hard look at the process changes needed to develop a more effective event.
Truly creative event design questions, for example, whether we need to have a keynote speaker, relegate significant participant discussions to breaks and socials, or supply entertainment during meals.
I’ve experienced plenty of bias against comprehensive event design since I began developing participant-driven and participation-rich meetings in 1992. Despite over 25 years’ evidence that such designs improve meetings for all stakeholders, most traditional event owners shy away from exploring change that is creatively significant. Even potential clients who are experiencing some combination of falling attendance, evaluations, or profits have a hard time facing changing what happens at their events.
Can we overcome bias against truly creative event design?
Though millions of meetings take place every year, thousands of meeting organizers know how to create truly creative conference designs. The steady rise in popularity of participant-driven and participation-rich designs like Conferences That Work continues.
We can do better than novelty at our meetings. The first step is to acknowledge our bias against creativity, and how we distract stakeholders with novelty instead. The second is to incorporate truly creative design into our events and experience the resulting benefits.
Image attribution Rob Donnelly