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Giving ideas that won’t get rejected: how personal identity relates to idea-taking in creative collaboration

Abstract

© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Through an inductive and qualitative field study of creative collaboration among R&D scientists, I examined how the personal identities of project leaders related to their willingness to accept (i.e., initially consider) versus reject the ideas of others during creative collaborations. I found that when project leaders self-defined as 'idealists' (i.e., they viewed themselves as artistic, independent, and unique in their creative approach) they were more likely to accept ideas given via a 'low-conviction' approach (i.e., presenting general and vague ideas with neutral emotion and a low degree of certainty in their viability). By contrast, I found that when project leaders self-defined as 'pragmatists' (i.e., they viewed themselves as practical, collaborative, and rational in their creative approach) they were more likely to accept ideas given via a 'high-conviction' approach (i.e., presenting rational, logical and specific ideas with passion and a high degree of certainty in their viability).  Analyses suggest that these idea giving approaches were effective because they affirmed (versus threatened) the creative identities and expertise of idealists and pragmatists, respectively. These findings suggest that customizing idea-giving approaches to the personal identities of idea-takers may improve collaboration and synthesis in creative project work. They also help to explain why idealists may become increasingly resistant to idea-taking over time (i.e., because successful resistance to ideas given by others affirms their perceptions of the rightness of their original ideas).

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