Most organizations these days strive for a collaborative environment, largely in the belief that collaboration helps to create an environment whereby creativity and innovation thrive.
Of course, I wrote recently about a study that explored whether our connectivity levels can actually harm our creativity. It found that having people that aren’t plugged into the network is beneficial to the creative output of the group.
It all depends on the stage of the innovation process, or in other words, whether you’re looking for information or using that information to devise solutions.
To cut a long story short, they found that when you’re looking for information, having strong networks can be invaluable. When you’re looking to create solutions based upon that information however, connectivity inhibits innovation.
A second study from researchers at Washington University highlights another risk to our creativity. It suggests that being territorial at work can be poison to creativity levels.
This doesn’t mean physical territory so much as intellectual territory. So, for instance, if we clearly label an idea as our own, then it can significantly hinder any attempts to invite suggestions for improvement.
The authors found that this kind of behavior is common at work, and the deep sense of ownership over an idea, or even project, by an individual can significantly stifle creative and constructive input from others.
This manifested itself in fewer, less creative suggestions being made by colleagues, largely due to the fact that they were deprived of any sense of ownership over the potential outcome of the idea or project. This reduced their motivation to input, typically resulting in a poorer quality outcome for the idea itself.
“The first idea is rarely the best,” the authors say. “Creative ideas have to be nurtured and developed and this often happens in the context of collaborating with others. However, when all the credit goes to the person who has the original idea, they will try to signal their ownership of it. Naturally, this makes other people less motivated to contribute and can squelch the creativity of their comments and suggestions.”
How to Present Ideas Well
The key, the authors suggest, is in how ideas are presented, and therefore valued in the organization. If undue emphasis is given to the ideas themselves, this can encourage intellectual territorialism. If however, equal emphasis is given to the feedback that ideas receive, that is more likely to encourage open debate.
Credit, therefore, should be split equally between those that propose new ideas, and those that contribute feedback on the idea.
“Marking our ideas only has benefits when those we seek out for feedback are more concerned with pleasing us, or are preoccupied with maintaining a positive relationship with us,” the authors conclude.
You can see the researchers discussing their study in the video below. How do their findings chime with your own workplace?