Entrepreneurs who use cannabis tend to generate new business ideas of higher originality, but lower feasibility, compared to those who abstain from the substance, according to new research published in the Journal of Business Venturing. The findings suggest that cannabis use can both help and hurt entrepreneurial creativity.
“Popular culture has perpetuated a notion that cannabis users are more creative. Along these lines, some successful CEOs and entrepreneurs — like Steve Jobs, for example — have claimed that cannabis use has benefitted their creativity at work,” said study author Benjamin Warnick, an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at Washington State University.
“Despite such claims and increased legalization and use of cannabis, the implications of cannabis use for entrepreneurs’ creativity has yet to be rigorously tested. My coauthors and I were very intrigued to dive into the implications of cannabis use for entrepreneurs, whether good or bad. This seemed all the more relevant given the increasing legalization, destigmatization, and use of cannabis.”
The researchers used the Qualtrics platform to recruit 254 entrepreneurs with venture founding experience. One hundred and twenty entrepreneurs were cannabis users, who reported that they had used cannabis 4.52 times in the past week on average. The remaining 134 entrepreneurs had used cannabis fewer than five times in their life and never in the past month.
The participants were briefly acquainted with virtual reality technology and then asked to generate as many new VR product and service ideas as possible for three minutes. The entrepreneurs were then instructed to select their best idea and elaborate on it in greater detail. Two independent experts rated the originality and feasibility of the each idea.
“For an entrepreneurial idea to be creative, it needs to be both original and feasible. We found that frequent cannabis use both helps and hurts entrepreneurs’ creativity — increasing the originality of entrepreneurs new business ideas but decreasing their feasibility compared to entrepreneurs who do not use cannabis,” Warnick told PsyPost.
The researchers also found that entrepreneurial passion and entrepreneurial experience played a role. Higher entrepreneurial experience weakened cannabis users’ originality, but increased the feasibility of their ideas. Entrepreneurial passion had the opposite effects.
“This increased originality and decreased feasibility of cannabis users’ new business ideas only surfaced to the extent that they were passionate about coming up with new business ideas or had relatively little experience starting new businesses,” Warnick explained.
However, addition research is needed to determine for sure whether the observed correlations are the result of cannabis intoxication or other factors.
“We compared cannabis-using entrepreneurs with entrepreneurs who do not use cannabis — not whether or not the entrepreneurs were high. Our results held whether or not the cannabis users reported being high on cannabis, but future research could consider running a randomized-controlled experiment comparing the creativity of entrepreneurs who are high when generating ideas compared to those who are sober. Some legal barriers in the U.S. make an experiment like this difficult, at least at the moment,” Warnick said.
“Our study is the first to examine the implications of any kind of drug use for entrepreneurs. Cannabis use could influence a variety of outcomes for entrepreneurs that we haven’t studied yet, including health and well-being implications, performance on other entrepreneurial tasks, business performance, among many others. There is a lot still to understand about the implications of cannabis use for entrepreneurs and for people more broadly.”
Of course, entrepreneurs looking to increase their creativity don’t necessarily need to turn to cannabis.
“There are certainly other ways that entrepreneurs might consider boosting their creativity,” Warnick said. “Research has found other factors that influence entrepreneurs’ new business ideation as well — mindfulness, sleep, creativity trainings, developing knowledge in an area and staying alert to potential opportunities, for example.”
The study, “Head in the clouds? Cannabis users’ creativity in new venture ideation depends on their entrepreneurial passion and experience“, was authored by Benjamin J. Warnick, Alexander S.Kier, Emily M. LaFrance, and Carrie Cuttler.