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Balancing on the Creative Highwire: Forecasting the Success of Novel Ideas in Organizations

Balancing on the Creative Highwire: Forecasting the Success of Novel Ideas in Organizations

Administrative Science Quarterly. July
2016, Vol. 61, Issue 3, Pages 433-468

Betting on the most promising new ideas is key to creativity and innovation in organizations, but predicting the success of novel ideas can be difficult. To select the best ideas, creators and managers must excel at creative forecasting, the skill of predicting the outcomes of new ideas. Using both a field study of 339 professionals in the circus arts industry and a lab experiment, I examine the conditions for accurate creative forecasting, focusing on the effect of creators’ and managers’ roles. In the field study, creators and managers forecasted the success of new circus acts with audiences, and the accuracy of these forecasts was assessed using data from 13,248 audience members. Results suggest that creators were more accurate than managers when forecasting about others’ novel ideas, but not their own. This advantage over managers was undermined when creators previously had poor ideas that were successful in the marketplace anyway. Results from the lab experiment show that creators’ advantage over managers in predicting success may be tied to the emphasis on both divergent thinking (idea generation) and convergent thinking (idea evaluation) in the creator role, while the manager role emphasizes only convergent thinking. These studies highlight that creative forecasting is a critical bridge linking creativity and innovation, shed light on the importance of roles in creative forecasting, and advance theory on why creative success is difficult to sustain over time.