Over the last three to four years there has been a great deal of research into dishonesty – probably as a reaction to some of the dubious practices that have led to such a crisis in confidence in our politicians, bankers and more recently, police. There are some key themes that come out of the research.
A Canadian study demonstrated that the earlier that children started to lie was was an indicator of how intelligent they are and that they are more likely to do better later in life. The director of the Institute of Child Study at Toronto University, Dr Kang Lee, said: “Parents should not be alarmed if their child tells a fib. Their children are not going to turn out to be pathological liars. Almost all children lie. It is a sign that they have reached a new developmental milestone. Those who have better cognitive development lie because they can cover up their tracks.”
In his study on a series of other academics’ research around creativity and dishonesty (The Dark Side of Creativity in Psychology Today), Scott Barry Kaufman reported the literature indicated that creativity was a better predictor of dishonesty than intelligence. What’s also interesting is you don’t have to be a creative type. Being in a creative mindset made anyone more likely to cheat. So beware what you say after a creative problem solving workshop! And being in a creative mindset (and therefore more likely to cheat) makes you more likely to justify cheating and leads to higher levels of dishonesty.
And what is the most important character trait people give when asked what the value most in other people? Trustworthiness.
So it would easy to be flippant about what the results say about people working in creative agencies. But ultimately what we do know is that creative people make better story tellers. And as Jonathan Gottschall pointed out in his book The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, ever since the first people sat around their campfire, we have told stories to make sense of the world. So it follows that you need the best storytellers you can get hold of to make sense of your brand or organisation.