"Individualism- Collectivism and Group Creativity"
From the Briefcase: Research produced by America's Best Business Schools
Individualistic groups instructed to be more creative generated significantly more ideas (37.4 ideas on average) than collectivistic groups told to be creative (26.1 ideas on average). Collectivistic groups instructed to be creative generated significantly more restaurant ideas as a percentage of total ideas generated (14 percent) than individualistic groups (7 percent) given the same instructions to be creative.
And on a creativity scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most creative, ideas from individualistic groups instructed to be creative were more creative (with an average rating of 3.03) than those generated by collectivistic groups (with an average rating of 2.83).
The upshot of this research is that companies should protect individual perspectives, Staw says.
"Organizations try to hire people who fit with the culture, but organizations should instead look for people who are different," he says. "Nurturing individualistic perspectives is better than having a corporatewide direction," Staw adds.
However, Staw notes that U.S. businesses have increasingly emphasized team projects and have long been interested in Asian business practices, which are known for their cooperative atmosphere. "This study raises a red flag because the U.S. has had a very individualistic culture, but as we're moving more toward team-based organizations, we risk losing some creativity," he cautions.
Staw's research on individualism versus collectivism follows another article outlining the results of a study of 222 workers for up to a year to determine the effect of positive mood on creativity. In that article, Staw and coauthors Teresa Amabile of Harvard University, Sigal Barsade of University of Pennsylvania, and Jennifer Mueller of New York University found that positive affect is a leading cause of creativity. The article, "Affect and Creativity at Work," was published in the September 2005 issue of Administrative Science Quarterly.