Does political correctness help or hinder innovation?

July 27, 2017 12:42 pm

While being able to ‘speak your mind’ might seem like a boost to creativity, having a sense of safety and predictability is an even more important factor in enabling people to freely share and build on each other’s ideas.

People are better able to produce novel ideas and solutions when they experience ‘just the right amount’ of tension or uncertainty – similar to other aspects of performance.

Expressing an untested idea requires a degree of social risk-taking and there is a level of certainty that comes with knowing that it will be met with a civil response. This provides balance to the equation, particularly in diverse groups.

Leaders who cultivate a ‘safe work environment’, that includes showing respect for others and avoidance of offensive language, are not only creating a workplace that is pleasant for a diverse group but also are laying the foundation for stronger performance including facilitating innovation.

What you can do right now

  1. Avoiding personal attacks, refraining from interrupting and simply paying attention when someone is speaking are essential. Ensure your team norms include all of these.
  2. More advanced, techniques such as auditioning ideas, habitually exploring contrary ideas/approaches and adopting a curious mindset, ensure that diverse perspectives are tabled and those providing the views are encouraged to stay engaged.

What methods have you used to foster honest and robust discussions that are also respectful to all colleagues?

Key take-away

Civility is not just about being politically correct but is an essential brain-based method to help people perform their best.

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Dr Connie Henson, author of BrainWise Leadership, runs change leadership programs informed by the latest neuroscience research through her company Learning Quest. For information visit www.learningquest.com.au Follow on twitter @LearningQuest

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