Creativity Under Fire: The Effects of Competition on Creative Production

70 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2014 Last revised: 7 Feb 2019

See all articles by Daniel P. Gross

Daniel P. Gross

Harvard Business School; National Bureau of Economic Research

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 10, 2018


Though fundamental to innovation and essential to many industries and occupations, individual creativity has received limited attention as an economic behavior and has historically proven difficult to study. This paper studies the incentive effects of competition on individuals' creative production. Using a sample of commercial logo design competitions, and a novel, content-based measure of originality, I find that intensifying competition induces agents to produce original, untested ideas over tweaking their earlier work, but heavy competition drives them to stop investing altogether. The results yield lessons for the management of creative workers and for the implementation of competitive procurement mechanisms for innovation.

Keywords: Creativity; Incentives; Tournaments; Competition; Radical vs. Incremental Innovation

JEL Classification: D81, M52, M55, O31, O32

Suggested Citation

Gross, Daniel P., Creativity Under Fire: The Effects of Competition on Creative Production (September 10, 2018). Harvard Business School Strategy Unit Working Paper No. 16-109. Available at SSRN: or

Daniel P. Gross (Contact Author)

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