Candor over Honesty

From Weekly I/O#74

To foster a creative culture of open communication, encourage candor rather than honesty. It's easier to be candid because it removes the moral barriers often associated with honesty.

Book: Creativity, Inc

Ed Catmul talks about the story of founding Pixar and his management philosophy in his book Creativity, Inc., which is the best book I've read on cultivating a long-lasting creative culture.

Open communication without withholding is essential to foster creativity. It also forms the foundation for psychological safety, the most crucial indicator of successful teams. However, our intrinsic fears and instincts often make us hold back our thoughts and expressions. Catmul notes:

"Ask anyone, "Should people be honest?" and of course their answer will be yes. It has to be! Saying no is to endorse dishonesty... But the fact is, there are often good reasons not to be honest."

Telling the truth is hard. Therefore, Catmul suggests:

"One way to do that is to replace the word honesty with another word that has a similar meaning but fewer moral connotations: candor. Candor is forthrightness or frankness— not so different from honesty, really. And yet, in common usage, the word communicates not just truth-telling but a lack of reserve. Everyone knows that sometimes, being reserved is healthy, even necessary for survival. Nobody thinks that being less than candid makes you a bad person (while no one wants to be called dishonest). People have an easier time talking about their level of candor because they don't think they will be punished for admitting that they sometimes hold their tongues."

Candor removes the moral barriers often associated with honesty. Because our self-preservation mechanism gets less triggered, it is easier to be candid than honest. Therefore, shifting from honesty to candor can facilitate a more creative environment where people feel more comfortable expressing genuine thoughts freely.

Thanks to Xinyi Zhang for recommending this book to me.

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