'Boring cities' more likely to nurture innovation

While creativity is normally seen as vital for innovation, hard work is more important
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A creative buzz and big ideas have long been associated with innovation, but new research shows that simple hard work is the most important factor to successful innovation.

A study by Dr Neil Lee from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) reveals that “boring cities with conscientious, focused residents” may outperform more exciting places which attract ambitious, outgoing personalities.

Using data from 400,000 people surveyed in a BBC personality test, Dr Lee shows how the local personality traits can influence innovation.

While most people associate innovation with creativity and openness to new ideas, Dr Lee’s research shows that places which score highly on the personality trait of conscientiousness – associated with hard work, task completion and being organised – have higher rates of patenting. This includes towns and cities such as Newbury, Oxford, Reading and Cambridge.

While creativity is normally seen as vital for innovation, it is often more important to have a conscientious attitude, an organised mind and the ability to complete tasks, Dr Lee finds.

For more information

Dr Neil Lee, or Candy Gibson, LSE media relations office, 020 7955 7440 or




Behind the article

Psychology and the geography of innovation by Dr Neil Lee is published in Economic Geography

The paper uses data from the BBC Big Personality Test, 2009-2011, produced by the BBC / University of Cambridge.

Dr Neil Lee is an Assistant Professor of Economic Geography at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He holds a PhD in Economic Geography from the LSE and was a visiting scholar at TCLab, Columbia University.

Dr Lee’s research considers cities, economic change and the social dimensions of innovation. He is particularly interested in the distribution of the proceeds of growth and the links between innovation and inequality. He has also published on the economics of the creative industries and the link between cultural diversity, innovation and urban economies.