Power of persistence leads to best ideas

Not giving up on a creative task is likely to pay great dividends as the best ideas come from persisting to think of more ideas, according to a new research

Photo: iStockphoto
Photo: iStockphoto

Ideas get better as you persevere; so don’t give up on them.

Researchers Brian J. Lucas and Loran Nordgren of Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, find that not giving up on a creative task is likely to pay great dividends as the best ideas come from persisting to think of more ideas.

“People just give up too easily,” said Nordgren, an associate professor of management and organizations, to Kellogg Insight. “They’re robbing themselves of their more interesting ideas by giving up too soon.”

The authors found that most people give up on the creative journey because they underestimate the quality and quantity of ideas they can generate just by persevering.

To demonstrate this, the researchers asked people to think of creative ideas during two short time periods. After the first interval, they were asked to take a guess on the number of ideas they would be able to come up with during the second interval.

The reason the researchers asked the participants to make this prediction was to get a sense of the confidence people have in their creative abilities.

In the first experiment, 24 university students were asked to come up with original ideas of dishes to serve at Thanksgiving. The students predicted they could come up with about 10 more ideas during the second interval. They came up with 15.

It was not just that they had more number of ideas, but the quality of ideas was also better in the second interval.

During the first interval, the participants came up with very traditional choices like turkey and mashed potatoes. But in the second half, their ideas got better ratings for originality, said the researchers. For instance, one participant suggested turkey-shaped waffles.

People end up underestimating just how many creative ideas they can get by persevering, especially when the creative task at hand is harder.

So, the message to take home is: Keep at it.

The researchers added that the point of the experiment was also not that people persevere endlessly, but to not give up when you think you have hit a wall. Unfortunately, the authors said there is no magic formula to figure out when you have reached the best solution.

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