Myths about creativity and the arts: five and six

Check the previous post for myths four and five, and the one before that for the background to Teresa Amabile’s six myths of creativity and an introduction to the first two.

Myth 5. Competition Beats Collaboration In finance and high-tech industries Amabile found that internal competition destroyed innovation, and that when people compete for recognition they stop sharing information: the most creative teams are the ones that are confident enough to share and debate ideas.

In this respect there has been a sea change in the cultural sector during the last decade and both internal and external collaboration now form a customary part of the pattern of creativity in both arts and non-arts environments.

This is also evident in the arts case studies in Bullying in the Arts – collaboration and cooperating foster creativity and when personal status is an issue, teamwork declines and bullying results.


Clare in the Community image courtesy of Harry Venning and the Guardian.

In terms of cultural leadership programmes, the principles of engagement have overtaken those of ‘strong’ directorial management, and this is a positive and a welcome change.

Leadership affects how bullying is handled, and the greater the extent to which cultural sector leaders are engaged with their colleagues and employees, the less likely it is that bullying behaviour will go undetected in arts organizations.

Myth 6. A Streamlined Organization Is a Creative Organization Teresa Amabile finds that creativity suffers greatly during restructuring and downsizing, and the arts case studies support this.

The following was written about Amabile’s research in a 6,000-person division in a global electronics company during the entire course of a 25 per cent downsizing, which took an ‘incredibly agonizing’ 18 months. It could have been written about the case study The Arts Service (Bullying in the Arts Chapter 4) instead.

Every single one of the stimulants to creativity in the work environment went down significantly. Anticipation of the downsizing was even worse than the downsizing itself – people’s fear of the unknown led them to basically disengage from the work. (Amabile 2004: 2).

BBC Broadcasting House

Photo Chris Radburn/PA, the Guardian

Today’s news about the extent of bullying being reported in the BBC has come as no surprise. When writing the book in 2010 it was apparent that the recession was likely to prompt an upsurge of bullying behaviour. This is because an organizational culture that permits bullying is effectively condoning it and when that organization is under pressure the bullying is likely to get worse. Today many trades unions, who have been protesting about the cuts the BBC are making, are saying precisely the same.

The behaviour and the responses to it cited by Dinah Rose QC in her report on sexual harassment and bullying in the BBC reflect that of similar incidents of harassment and bullying elsewhere, particularly the fear of speaking out which was explored by Liz Hill in her excellent editorial Feel the fear in Arts Professional in September 2012.

The BBC has promised to set up a transparent process that will deal more quickly and more effectively with complaints – let’s hope they also provide suitable training for all members of staff who manage people, so that Respect at Work policies are actually implemented and their procedures are fair, and seen to be fair.

JQA has collaborated with The Art of Possibility to create new facilitated workshops: Workplace bullying – what it is and what you can do about it. Places available now for sessions in Leeds and London in June 2013. See workplace bullying tab for details.



Amabile, T. 2004. The 6 Myths of Creativity, in article by B. Breen, Fast Company (89). December. Available at: [accessed February 2011] 1–2.

Plunkett, J. (2013) BBC bullies creating ‘climate of anxiety and fear’ Guardian Media News 2nd May. Available at:


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This entry was posted in Arts, Creativity, Culutral organizations, Research, Trades unions, Workplace Bullying and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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