Embarrassed boy

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We’ve all had embarrassing moments at work. Yet new research from the Kellogg School shows that these moments may have a hidden power. Embarrassment, the study finds, can actually be a gateway to creativity. When participants in the study recounted an embarrassing moment before a brainstorming session, they came up with both a larger number and wider range of ideas than those who shared a memory that made them feel proud. These cringe-worthy anecdotes seem to remove the barrier of self-censorship.

Can Embarrassment Increase Creativity?


In the first study, 111 online participants were told they would engage in an idea-generation task, but first needed to complete a “warm up” exercise. Some were told to provide a written account of the most embarrassing thing they had done in the last six months, while others were told to describe something they had done in the past six months that they were proud of.

Next, participants spent five minutes brainstorming as many unusual uses as they could for a paper clip. The researchers assessed their responses based on two standard measurements of creativity: the volume of ideas generated and the range of those ideas.

Participants who had recounted an embarrassing story generated significantly more ideas than those who recounted a proud moment. They also generated more ideas in different categories, such as using the paper clips as earrings (jewelry), tomato pins (gardening), and unconventional cocktail picks (utensils).

The researchers also ran a control group, which was asked to describe their commute to work before completing the paper-clip task. They found that this group’s results did not differ from those in the pride group—suggesting that the embarrassment made participants more creative than they would have been otherwise.

View source article at Having a Brainstorm Session? Here’s Why You Should Begin with an Embarrassing Story

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