Going to buy a new car, or negotiate resource allocations on the
job? Should you focus on problem solving or creativity?
Most managers understand that generating creative solutions is
usually far more successful than systematic problem solving in haggling
and negotiating. So, reflecting the common wisdom that creativity is an
innate talent that can’t be taught, they try to find or hire creative
people who can generate new ideas in those settings. You know the
conventional wisdom: creatives are born not grown.
That may be a missed opportunity. The April issue of
Harvard’s newsletter, Negotiation, reports on a new study by
D.T. Ogilvie of Rutgers and Shalei Simms of Ramapo College who wanted to
test traditional wisdom. The researchers randomly assigned MBA
students into small groups.
Some of the groups received a 30-minute workshop on traditional
decision-making techniques that stressed systematic problem solving,
while the other group was given a 30-minute workshop on creative
processing. The creativity focus included instructions such as “have
fun,” “refrain from criticizing your ideas,” and “look for new
Then, with each member representing a hospital department, groups
negotiated a cost-allocation problem. The conclusion? “Negotiators who
had received creativity training performed better than did those who
had received more traditional training. The results suggest that by
exposing negotiators to creativity training and supporting their bright
ideas, organizations may see improvements to their bottom lines.”
What does this say about career development and skill training?
When stepping into a new situation, always ask the mindset question:
What’s the best approach to this issue? How should I think about this
problem and what mentality should I bring?
Here’s my perspective. Performers always think about their audience
and their content. Once they’ve decided on the best mindset, including
their own emotional set, they psych themselves up for the performance.
Perhaps business people need to learn how to be artists!