Two Creative Minds Can Be Better Than One

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Research has shown that, as a rule, groups tend to be less creative than individuals working alone. But it doesn’t have to be this way, according to a new article published in Administrative Science Quarterly. Authors Sarah Harvey and Chia-Yu Kou of University College London argue that the secret to enhancing group creativity lies not in generating ideas, but in evaluation — a process which gets group members “more deeply engaged with one another’s ideas”:

UntitledThe collective nature of creativity. Taken together, our insights reveal a fundamentally new way to understand the collective nature of creativity. Whereas previous research has considered the group as a context for individual creativity that results in collective output when individual contributions are aggregated (Sacramento, Dawson, and West, 2008), we argue that evaluation is the point at which the process becomes collective (Collins, 2005). Evaluation is therefore central to collective engagement in the creative process. Evaluating ideas early and throughout the process is not only an alternative path to creativity, but a different kind of collective process through which individual ideas are transformed into collective products.

asq150We began this research with the question of how groups overcome the challenges of transforming members’ inputs into collective creative products. Our surprising answer is that evaluation can facilitate rather than hinder this process. Creative groups like the jazz ensembles, music producers, and product designers studied by organizational scholars may be creative not because their members stimulate divergent new ideas, but because they excel at allowing evaluation to guide the creative process.

The paper, “Collective Engagement in Creative Tasks: The Role of Evaluation in the Creative Process in Groups,” was published in the Administrative Science Quarterly September 2013 issue.

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