ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

September 1997


Education 101: Redesigning Schools
Site Based Management Relocates Decision Making

Take the Good with the Bad
Positive and Negative Feedback in Creativity Sessions

Site Council Learns About Growth, Power And Communication

Knowledge Management
Taking Control of the Information Age

Etymology of a Buzzward

Investment Tip: Stay In For The Long Haul
Van Kampen American Capital Perseveres to Win AQP Excellence Award


It's About Time
by Peter Block

You Have to Be a Little Different
by Cathy Kramer


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Book Review

Letters to the Editor


Take The Good With The Bad
Positive and Negative Feedback in Creativity Sessions

We've all been there. Sitting in another brainstorming session with a facilitator encouraging everyone to support a co-worker's concept. A little wary of the idea, we remain silent. It could be a great idea, but there are some crucial questions. Yet we are not allowed to show any resistance-- just support, support, support. We fight the doubt and continue the session with questions in our mind. However, creativity experts disagree about the importance and role of positive and negative feedback in such sessions.

Creativity is not a natural process. In fact, as logical as it seems, creativity goes against the natural processes of the brain. It involves trying new ideas that have never been thought of before, making something work when it had previously been unimaginable, and creating a norm from something which had previously appeared off-the-wall.

Many times business environments stifle creative development. Little change and advancement occurs because new ideas are not encouraged. Tom Peters defines an innovative atmosphere as one which "encourages employees to break away from the rules and embrace creative input."

Creative ideas are generated in an atmosphere which allows for many concepts to be produced at one time. There is no set way to accomplish this. Different approaches work for different companies. However, debate occurs over whether positive or negative feedback better stimulates creativity.

Conflicting Feedback Enhances Creativity
Dr. Steven Berglas, a management consultant and psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, feels conflicting feedback enhances an individual's creativity. Berglas states, "Finding out others hold views of what is right or best that somehow conflict with yours will send a healthy person back to the drawing board." Compliance often stems from people whoe feel they must act in accordance, but actually don't agree with the rules or ideas.

This type of environment results in a higher turnover rate and dissatisfaction among employees. But Berglas says people who feel a commitment to an idea do more than just talk the talk. They are more likely to stand up for their viewpoint, define it and defend it and this allows the creative juices to flow.

Denial is the Death of Creativity
On the other hand, Len Mozzi of Creativity Unlimited, Indianapolis, Ind., believes we usually spend our time focusing on what is wrong with another's ideas. Rather, we should concentrate on what is right. Denial is the death of creativity and ideas, and support is necessary to foster new ones. "This positive focus creates enthusiasm and energy. It leads us down paths we have never traveled because it's a path someone else has chosen. But by challenging ourselves with the unfamiliar we automatically become more creative because we are dealing with unknowns. Ironically, we discover our creative selves in helping others look good," says Mozzi.

Most Companies Find Middleground
Many times a business environment blurs the boundaries between positive and negative feedback and the answers are a little less clear. Jim Carlineo, an environmental scientist with Baltimore Gas & Electric says "with the nineties being susceptible to changes at double the time, it is important for businesses to remain open-minded when faced with new ideas." While positively encouraging and supporting the development of an idea, the use of negative feedback makes the concept sound.

Justifying and listing the advantages of an idea continue to be important. Seldom will management turn their noses at something new when it's backed with sound judgement. Carlineo continues that unless possibly detrimental to the life of the company, most won't resist a fresh idea potentially leading to success and advancement. It may be the one thing needed to give you that edge over a business competitor.

The speed with which projects and ideas reach the workplace today demands instant reception and development. Creative ideas are important for success. Brainstorming, committing one's self and taking a chance in the form of positive and negative feedback are three steps to enhancing personal creativity.
So, the next time you find yourself in a brainstorming session and you're fighting back your negative feelings and uncertainty about another's new ideas, don't resist. Remain open-minded, listen and encourage the ideas, catalog your thoughts, and express your concern. The positive feedback will show your genuine interest while always allowing room for improvement and expansion. The most successful brainstorming sessions will be those which take a little of both.

Sept. '97 News for a Change | Email Editor
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