Richard Moohead wonderfully picks up on recent research on the relationship between creativity and entitlement. The research, reported in the Harvard Business Review, tested whether people who beleived that they were more creative were, for example, willing to lie for money, and found, sadly, that the answer was yes. (Steve Jobs is reported to have parked in handicapped parking without a special plate.) Earlier research seems to show that there is a correlation with actual creativity, as opposed to perceived creativity. (Irony alert: some of these papers can not be accessed for free. I managed to overcome the urge to be creative to get at them!)
Richard summarizes and quotes the article as follows:
They identify studies by Francesca Gino and Dan Ariely showing that creative thinkers are better at rationalizing dishonesty and that “thinking outside the box” may lead to a greater propensity to act unethically. Vincent and Kouchaki claim:
This is because, at least in the U.S., creativity is often celebrated as a special attribute. The idea that creativity is rare leads to a sense of entitlement; if you are creative, you see yourself as more deserving than others. Leaders reinforce this when they don’t hold creative people to the same rules as those who are less creative, or when they give them special treatment. Steve Jobs even had a habit of parking his Mercedes in handicap parking spots and driving it without a license plate.
Similarly, creative people may grant themselves a moral licence
Basically, it’s not just that creative people can think outside the box; it’s that people who see themselves as creative and see creativity as rare believe that they deserve a bigger box than others. And what is more troubling is that they might be willing to steal and lie as a result.
We in the access to justice movement are very proud of our ability to innovate. What are we doing to make sure that that pride does not lead to ethical shortcuts? I should say right now that I have seen no evidence of such shortcuts. I hope that our committement to research and evaluation, which is surely greater than that in the traditional delivery system, should help protect against them. But it does underline that our transparency is becoming all the more important as our agenda seems to be taking root.
I suspect that, at least in the nonprofit sector,the issue is less cheating than getting carried away with enthusiasm for the possible benefits of an innovation, and not being sufficiently sensitive to less obvious implications. This is obviously a risk with technology (see, for an attempt to avoid it, the Access to Justice Technology Principles, as adopted by the Washington State Supreme Court.)
Perhaps as well as always recommitting to transparency and evaluation, we need to build more checks into our innovation processes into who might be getting hurt or sidelined by change.
Moreover, from a different point of view, many of our innovations might be subject to criticism for ignoring the risk of fraud and dishonesty by litigants. Providing access services without a lawyer, for example, certainly runs the risk that the litigant will be deprived of effective cross examination skills (but see here a discussion of how a judge can deal with this problem, number 8 at page 41 of Judges Journal article.) So this research might help us think through when we need to be vigilant in our triage processes to ensure that that capacity is provided, and in our hearing processes to ensure that the risks are appropriately dealt with.
A final thought for all of us : may be the best suggestion might be to try and inject into the culture the idea that the highest form or creativity is finding ways of being truly ethical even in different situations.