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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The liberating role of conflict in group creativity: A cross cultural study


Researchers of group creativity have noted problems such as social loafing, “production blocking,” and especially, evaluation apprehension (Paulus, 2000). Thus, brainstorming techniques have specifically admonished people “not to criticize” their own and others’ ideas, a tenet that has gone unexamined. In contrast, there is research showing that dissent, debate and competing views have positive value, stimulating divergent and creative thought (Nemeth, 2002, in press). In this experimental study, traditional brainstorming instructions admonishing people not to criticize were compared with instructions encouraging people to debate and even criticize. A third condition offered no specific instructions. This study was conducted both in the United States and in France. Results show the value of both types of instructions, but, in general, debate instructions were superior to traditional brainstorming instructions. Further, these findings hold across both cultures. Results are discussed in terms of the positive value of encouraging debate and controversy for idea generation.

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