Wednesday, May 16, 2012
How many close connections do you have with people? The vast majority of people have somewhere between 4 and 7 close friends – strong ties. This number is remarkably stable across all cultures and demographics, suggesting that we’re inherently limited when it comes to cultivating deep relationships. However, weak ties turn out to be an essential ingredient of creativity.
Business people with entropic networks full of weak ties were 3 times more innovative than people with small networks of close friends. The most creative ideas, it turns out, don’t occur when we’re alone. Rather, they emerge from our social circles, from collections of acquaintances who inspire novel thoughts.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
The only way to maximize group creativity is to encourage a candid discussion of mistakes. We can only get it right when we talk about what we got wrong. In a study that asked, "how can traffic congestion be reduced in the San Francisco Bay Area?" brainstorming groups slightly outperformed groups given no instructions. However, people in the debate condition generated nearly 25% more ideas.
After the groups disbanded, people in the minimal and brainstorming conditions produced, on average, 2 additional ideas. Those in the debate condition produced more than 7. Debate and criticism don’t inhibit ideas, but rather stimulate them relative to every other condition.
Beginning a group session with a moment of dissent – even when the dissent is wrong – can dramatically expand creative potential. The power of dissent is really about the power of surprise. “Plussing” allows people to improve ideas without using harsh or judgmental language: Whenever work is criticized, the criticism should contain a plus, a new idea that builds on the flaws in a productive manner.
Monday, May 7, 2012
Brainstorming is one of the most popular creativity techniques used by organisations. The problem is: it doesn't work. In a study conducted as far back as 1958, forty-eight undergraduate students were divided into twelve groups and given a series of creative puzzles to solve. They were instructed in how to follow the brainstorming guidelines. Another group of forty-eight students working by themselves were given the same puzzles to solve.
The solo student group came up with twice as many solutions to puzzles as the brainstorming group, and their solutions were deemed more “feasible” and “effective” by a panel of judges. "Groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas".
Saturday, May 5, 2012
The Allen curve was discovered by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Thomas J. Allen in the late 1970s. It represents the likelihood that any two people in the same office will communicate. For example, a person is 10 times more likely to communicate with a colleague who sits at a neighbouring desk than with someone whop sits more than 50 metres away.
Related research has discovered that the highest performing employees – those with the most useful new ideas – were the ones who consistently engaged in the most interactions. “High performers consulted with anywhere from 4 to 9 organisational colleagues (on a given project), whereas low performers contacted 1 or 2 colleagues at most".
Increasing the number of colleagues with whom an employee consults contributes independently to performance; people have more new ideas when they talk with more people. In another study, the best traders were the most connected, and people who carried on more Instant Messaging conversations and sent more messages also made more money (typical traders generated profits on 55% of their trades, those who were extremely plugged in profited on more than 70% of their stock trades).
Friday, May 4, 2012
What's the ideal strategy for group creativity? Brian Uzzi, a sociologist at Northwestern University, developed a measure of the density of connections between group members (Q) reflecting the “social intimacy” of people working together, with higher levesl of Q signaling a greater degree of closeness. He studied the ideal form of creative collaboration for successful Broadway musicals. When Q was low, or less than 1.4, the musicals were much more likely to fail. When the Q was too high (above 3.2) the work also suffered. The best Broadway shows were produced with intermediate levels of social intimacy. A musical produced at the ideal level of Q (2.6) was 2.5 times more likely to be a commercial success.
People have a tendency to want to work only with friends. It feels so much more comfortable. But that’s exactly the wrong thing to do. If you really want to make something great, then you’re going to need to seek out some new people too.”