The female of the species is more cautious than the male
Last year over at Lucidity we developed the innovation animal quiz to help you understand what type of innovator you and your colleagues are so that you can then play to your different strengths to get better results. If you haven’t tried the innovation animal quiz, then give it a go here. (It only takes a couple of minutes)
We also wanted to bust the myth that innovation and creativity is a mystical dark art reserved for the ‘creative people’ and provide a playful way to talk about innovation. For example we think it’s hard to consider innovation a dark art if you are an innovation penguin. (Or any of the animals for that matter)
Over 3,000 people have discovered what innovation animal they are. Bison are most prevalent. Women are more likely to be owls or wolves. Men have a preference for eagles and meerkats. And turtles are few and far between. (If you have a turtle in your team keep hold of them.)
Recently we were scratching our heads to see if we could spot any patterns or uncover what the innovation animals quiz results might mean.
We started by looking at the data on gender and tried to uncover whether there are there any patterns to how men and women approach innovation.*
Is there an innovation gender gap?
The first numbers which leapt out were that men are much more embracing of risk than women. 57% of men when asked said they ‘enjoy the feeling of taking risks’ over ‘finding risk unsettling’. This compared to only 44% of women who enjoyed risk taking. This is congruent with a variety of studies over the years together with research that women are perceived as more risk averse than men.
It turns out that men’s attention wanders more than women’s. 45% of men answered that their ‘attention starts to wander’ rather than ‘having complete focus on a project until completion’. Only 35% of women declare their attention wanders in this way. Is this a surprise? There’s an age-old gender debate about multi-tasking; that women can do it better than men. There’s also evidence that multi-tasking inhibits creativity and productivity. What are your thoughts? (Let us know because we’re going to delve a bit deeper into this question in an upcoming blog)
And if we look at the two questions about approach to risk and attention span together, over a quarter of men are proper novelty seekers in that they embrace risk and have a short attention span, compared to just 12% of women. Does this mean when it comes to innovation, that men are better at taking risks, failing fast and moving onto the next thing – or do men get bored and throw ideas away too readily without testing thoroughly enough?
According to the innovation animal’s quiz, when it comes to convincing others about their ideas men are marginally more self-confident than women, 69% feel they are good at convincing others (compared to 62% of women). However our data also suggests its men who are slightly more likely to get upset if they’re criticised!
Other findings include that men are more likely to enjoy working on their own, while women are more open to the views of others and collaborating. Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis have studied men and women working in groups. They’ve found that women are more creative and collaborative in groups. However, if you throw a competitive component to the picture, they perform less well, which is exactly the opposite of male groups. For more read here.
Considerably more men describe themselves as ‘data driven decision makers’, while more women say they have a ‘preference for gut instinct’. With all these questions there is a grey area in terms of how we answer; do we respond with what we perceive our behaviour to be or what our behaviour actually is. The data versus intuition preference for men and women is congruent with several pieces of research that have found that female brains are more connected between right and left hemispheres – an arrangement that facilitates emotional processing, i.e. gut instinct.
The final point that struck us was how the quiz was answered. It has questions on a scale from 1-10 between two points, for example ‘I enjoy the feeling of taking risks’ to ‘I find risk unsettling’. In every one of the 13 questions more women chose the mid-points, somewhere between the two statements, with typically 6% fewer moving towards one or two points from the end of the scale.
It’s obviously difficult to say definitively what drives that tendency; do women spend a little longer in consideration and reach slightly more nuanced conclusions, realising that sometimes the answer to a question is a bit of each? Or is it that women prefer to take less risk, so don’t ‘risk’ a bold answer? Or perhaps men just need to appear decisive?
We’d love to know your views on our initial thoughts as well as what else you would like to know about your innovation animal. Do drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll see what we can do.
Ian Scott has a background in anthropology and statistics and Lucy Gower is director at Lucidity.
Get in touch if you would like some help with your creativity and innovation skills.
*Now, the analysis is not exact because we do not capture gender of respondents, but we do in most cases get names, and while there are quite a few people called Sam – most are pretty clearly male and female so upwards of 90% of names given were useful as we’ve a lot of confidence in what sex Lucy and Ben are.