When you’re asked a question, is your knee-jerk reaction to respond sarcastically? We all enjoy a good bit of sarcasm from time to time, but a recent study appears to have found evidence that sarcasm is related to creativity.
According to new research published in the Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, sarcasm may actually encourage creativity for both the sarcastic person and for anyone listening to them. The research was performed by Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School (which boasts important graduates like Michael Bloomberg, Sandy Sandberg, and Keith Krach), Adam Galinsky of Columbia Business School, and Li Huang of INSEAD.
“To create or decode sarcasm, both the expressers and recipients of sarcasm need to overcome the contradiction…between the literal and actual meanings of the sarcastic expression,” said Gino. “This is a process that activates and is facilitated by abstraction, which in turn promotes creative thinking.”
Participants in the series of studies were randomly assigned to have a conversation that was either sarcastic, sincere, or neutral. After a brief conversation, the participants were given a test to judge their creativity.
So what did they find? That people who had sarcastic conversation had more creative solutions to tasks they were given than those who had a polite chat. Way to go, polite people!
Adam Galinsky, another of the study’s co-authors, believes that this could relate to creativity in general. “This suggests that sarcasm has the potential to catalyze creativity in everyone.”
So what does this mean for your business and hiring practices? Should you start employing sarcastic people? Or asking questions in an interview to determine the applicants’ degree of sassiness?
As much as we’d love to see this study make the workplace more sarcasm-friendly, there likely won’t be any overarching changes made anytime soon.
But the next time someone gives you grief over your sarcasm, you can remind them that it just means you’re creative.