Andy’s Quick Hits (268): Why Having a Hit Reduces Creativity

Andy Hab
3 min readAug 8, 2022

In music this happens often — a band lands a hit but then fails to do anything special again. A well-known occurrence with hits like Tequila in 1958 being the ultimate one-hit wonder for The Champs — there are hundreds of others. But it doesn’t just happen in music, for example, Harper Lee’s hit To Kill A Mocking Bird was her only novel and it took her 55 years to release a sequel.

Why does this happen? Well, there could by many reasons, a lucky punch leading to something really hitting the mark, freak marketing or exposure, the stars aligning to make everything perfect, etc. etc. however, it could also be that creativity itself is impacted by success.

And this is precisely what Markus Baer and Dirk Deichmann of Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, wanted to find out. To do this they went to research cookbooks. This may sound like a strange place to look for creativity, but they are commonly published, it is competitive, they are commonly bought and, importantly, tend to be a creative labour of love. They found that 50% of those who managed to get a cookbook published failed to publish a second.

They then set up a series of experiments with undergraduates. They were asked to design concepts for a cookbook. They were then randomly given one of two pieces of feedback…

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Andy Hab

Sharing fascinating, fun, and important knowledge on the brain and human behaviour - most days. And masters track athlete - still going strong!