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Does Being Cranky Mean Being More Creative?

Update Date: Apr 24, 2013 10:15 AM EDT
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People tend to admire others who are creative, but surprisingly, new research shows the most creative people could be the crankiest.

Researchers at Ghent University in Belgium and Leuphana University in Germany discovered that negative feelings and thoughts can actually have a significant contribution to employee creativity. In fact, the findings published in the Academy of Management Journal found that creativity is at its highest following a spell of negative thinking.

Researchers concluded that negative thinking draws attention to problems and signals that an effort needs to be invested in order to solve those problems. This helps to cultivate a more thorough and objective understanding of the situation and might also provide a basis for breakthrough ideas once the negative thoughts have subsided, according to Live Science.

"My co-authors and I compare it to the wonder of the phoenix, the mythological creature that burns to ashes but then resurrects from those ashes to become a beautiful bird," said Ronald Bledow, one of the study authors from Ghent University.

The researchers found there is a dynamic process in which a person experiences a phase of negative thinking and feeling, followed by a state of highly positive feeling and thinking which consequently results in creating a new idea.

The findings were based on several studies, including one that asked more than 100 professionals from a variety of fields to complete daily online surveys just after they arrived for work in the morning and just before leaving at the end of the day. Participants worked in the fields of business, psychology, engineering and education. The study demonstrated that the relationship between the levels of creativity was significantly stronger for those who experienced negative thinking in the morning.

The researchers believe the study has strong implications for managers trying to stimulate creativity out of their employees.

"In some situations, leaders may be better advised to turn employees' attentions to problematic aspects of a situation" the researchers wrote in the study.

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