WORK-LIFE BALANCE / FEB. 19, 2015
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How Entitlement Can Boost Your Creativity

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I’m sure you’ve known people at work down the years that have carried a distinct sense of entitlement about them.  It’s quite likely that you haven’t responded all that positively to such individuals. A recent study suggests that while these people may be largely negative, they do have one silver lining to them, in that they can often promote creativity at work.

Such headstrong people are often determined to get what they want, and don’t tend to worry too much about other people.  Heck, the rules just don’t apply to this kind of people. Often this can be a pain in the backside, with such individuals tending to break the rules or engage in unethical behaviour.

The study suggests however that a small dose of entitlement may actually get our creative juices flowing.

“When people feel more entitled, they will think and act differently than others, and the more they do so, the more willing and able they will be to generate creative solutions,” the authors reveal.

Participants were placed into two groups, each of which received a written prompt. One group was asked to write down three reasons why they believe they should have the best in life and why they should have more than others. The other group were asked to do the opposite, and share why they believe they don’t deserve as much as other people.

Each group was then asked to undertake a task that is traditionally used to determine our creativity, such as drawing an alien or devising as many uses as possible for a paperclip.

Entitlement Equals Creativity

The results revealed that those in the entitlement group scored better  with the paper clips than their peers in the other group. They came up with many more ideas than their peers, and their ideas were also rated as better quality. The same was true with their alien drawings, which were rated as much more creative than the control group.

A second experiment was undertaken to further test the hypothesis.  This time, participants were asked to tackle a word puzzle where they were shown three words and were asked to come up with a fourth that would fit in with the other three in some way.  So, for instance, if you were given actor, falling and dust, you might come up with ’star’ as your fourth word.  In addition to the task, they were also tested for their sense of power and uniqueness.

Just as with the first experiment, those who had been primed to feel entitled performed better on the test than their peers.

“When participants felt entitled, they wanted to be different from others, and the more they wanted to be different, the more creative they became,” the authors say. “The entitled individuals’ need for uniqueness seemed to enable them to diverge from the common meanings of the words, which benefited their performance.”

The researchers are at pains to point out that there appeared to be a difference between feeling permanently entitled and feeling thus as a result of your situation.

“Thus, our results suggest that small, temporary boosts in entitlement can facilitate creativity, while a chronically entitled disposition does not help and might even backfire on the exact same tasks,” the authors caution.

So those with a permanent sense of entitlement a worker might put in less effort than their peers. The question then becomes, of course, how can you go about fostering temporary senses of entitlement in the first place?

Do you constantly have to deal with people with a sense of entitlement at work? Do you think they are more creative? Your thoughts and comments below please...

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