Only The Best Ideas Get Rejected

“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.” - Brene Brown

It’s hard to be a creative person. Whether you’re an artist, writer, scientist or any kind of innovator, there’s a high likelihood that your creativity and creative ideas have been unilaterally rejected. But take heart. It turns out rejection is the hallmark of true innovation.

As this Fast Company article’s title implies, It’s Not An Innovative Idea Until It Gets Rejected. That’s because it turns out almost all of us are biased against creativity.  So if it’s a good idea, it will meet rejection.

The bias was discovered by researchers from Cornell, Penn State and the University of North Carolina. The study discovered that our personal feelings about uncertainty in life changed our regard for creative ideas.  The more uncertain a person feels, the less likely they are to embrace creativity in others.

So, although our society claims to value creativity and recognizes its contributions as essential in all organizations, most all creative ideas get initially shot down because they involve risk and that makes us uneasy.  The unease people feel, and the bias it creates, also blocks a person’s capacity to recognize good ideas and creative work when they do encounter it.

Considering these great odds stacked against great art, how is it that we even have art and artists around?

Researcher from Berkeley scholar, Dr. Barry M. Straw, found that the enduring nature of art can be attributed to the chutzpah of the artists. “Although [artists] display enormous curiosity and flexibility in problem identification and idea generation, they also show great tenacity in implementing their preferred solutions. Such persistence (or selective-retention) may be why certain artistic or scientific products ultimately reach acceptance in the economic, artistic, or intellectual marketplace.”  Even though they often face repeated rejection.

The same authors who brought us the information about bias against creativity, also saw this amazing resilience amongst artists and further enhanced the notion by finding artists often thrive on rejection.

Eminently creative people working in fields as disparate as Physics and Literature refer to the experience of social rejection as fuel for creativity. In three studies, we show that individuals who hold an independent self-concept performed more creatively following social rejection relative to inclusion. We also show that this boost in creativity is mediated by a differentiation mindset, or salient feelings of being different from others.”  

In other words, artists often feel more creative when they’re regarded as outsiders. What does this mean for your personal creative endeavors? Well, it’s scientifically based encouragement!  

First off, know that good ideas will be rejected.  Second off, know that if you can keep your esteem up, the rejection can make you more creative and eventually more successful. And finally, now that you know about everyone’s natural bias against creativity, try and take rejection less personally. It’s not typically an accurate judgement of the work itself. And that’s not just your ego saying that; It’s science.

Human Unlimited
Human Unlimited