Early creativity as a constraint on future achievement

Jack A. Goncalo, Lynne C. Vincent, Pino G. Audia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter

22 Scopus citations


Most organizations, particularly those in volatile environments, recognize the need to stimulate creativity in their workforce because new and useful ideas can be highly profitable (Shalley … Perry-Smith, 2001). It is not surprising, then, that employees or teams that manage to develop a highly creative idea are rewarded with greater pay, recognition, and status (Merton, 1968). However, a highly successful creative idea also may lead to frustration, unmet expectations, and failed attempts to replicate success by producing poor imitations of one’s early work. In other words, early creativity may constrain future achievement as people buckle under the weight of their past success. There is abundant evidence that success can stifle creativity from biographies of eminent novelists. For instance, Ralph Ellison never produced another novel after the Invisible Man despite years of broken promises (and book contracts) that never materialized. It would appear that Harper Lee did not even make such an attempt; she retired shortly after writing her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. This decision may have been a rational one on her part because even prolific writers seem to have trouble replicating early career success. For example, there was a 32-year gap between Norman Mailer’s iconic first novel, The Naked and the Dead (1948), and his next critical and commercial hit, The Executioner's Song (1980). Furthermore, the constraining effects of creativity are not restricted to writers but may be a consequence of success in many fields.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Dark Side of Creativity
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780511761225
ISBN (Print)9780521191715
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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