Tag Archives: Innovation

Innovation

Walking Linked to More Creative Solutions than Sitting

Marily Oppezzo

Marily Oppezzo

Getting  moving can enable creative problem solving:  More novel, feasible, and appropriate ideas were generated by people when they walked than when they sat, reported Santa Clara University’s Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz of Stanford University.

Dan Schwartz

Dan Schwartz

The research team contrasted the impact of:
-Walking indoors or outdoors vs.
-Sitting or being pushed in a wheelchair indoors or outdoors.

More than 175 volunteers in 4 experiments completed several well-validated assessments of creative thinking:

  • JP Guilford

    JP Guilford

    Guilford’s Alternate Uses (GAU) for common objects, created by University of Southern California’s J. P. Guilford, to measure of cognitive flexibility and divergent thinking,

  • Mark Beeman

    Mark Beeman

    Barron’s Symbolic Equivalence Test (BSE), introduced by Frank Barron of University of California, Santa Cruz to calibrate the number of original insightful analogies generated for  complex ideas.

Frank Barron

Frank Barron

 

Oppezzo and Schwartz coded analogies according to a protocol developed by Northwestern’s Dedre Gentner to measure:

o   Level of detail (vague, precise),
o   Semantic proximity to the base statement (near, far),
o   Relational mapping to the base statement (low, high).

Dedre Gentner

Dedre Gentner

Walking increased 81% of participants’ divergent creativity on the Guilford’s Alternate Uses (GAU), and 23% of participants’ scores for convergent thinking measured by Compound Remote-Association test (CRA).
This trend significantly increased when volunteers walked outside:  These participants produced the most novel and highest quality analogies.

Walkers across 4 experiments generated an average of 60% more creative ideas than when seated.
In addition, people who walked were more talkative, and their greater verbal output was associated with more valid creative ideas.

Marc Berman

Marc Berman

The sequence of walking and idea generation affects the number and quality of creative suggestions.
Participants generated more valid creative solutions when they walked first then sat for the next problem-solving session.
In contrast, volunteers did not produce more valid creative solutions with more experience when they sat first then walked, or when they sat but never walked.

John Jonides

John Jonides

These effects may be explained by  Attention Restoration Theory (ART), described by University of Michigan’s Marc G. Berman, John Jonides, and Stephen Kaplan as two types of attention:

Stephen Kaplan

Stephen Kaplan

They suggested that walking in natural environments enables renewal of directed attention capacities and improves performances on difficult tasks when no longer walking.

In contrast, walking in an urban walk requires directed attention to avoid obstacles and dangerous situations, and provides less opportunity to restore directed attention.

Jin Fan

Jin Fan

After volunteers walked, they performed better on attentional function tasks measured by Jin Fan of Mount Sinai Medical School’s Attention Network Test.
Items evaluate:

  • Alerting,
  • Orienting,
  • Executive attention.

Benefits of walking on creative production were not related to mood or weather conditions during four different seasons.
Even viewing photographs of nature helped participants improve backwards digit-span compared with viewing photographs of urban environments, in Opezzo and Schwartz’s investigation.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche

These studies validate Friedrich Nietzsche’s observation that “all truly great thoughts are conceived by walking and imply the value of walking in a natural setting before generating creative ideas.

Another implication is based on the finding that amount of talking  was associated with increased number and quality of creative ideas.
As a result, allocating sufficient time for extended discussion is likely to increase innovative output.

These findings suggest that access to walking places in natural settings is more than a pleasant amenity:  It enhances cognitive functioning and performance.

-*How effective have you found taking a brief walk outdoors before high-stakes discussions?

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Unrealistic Optimism Drives Profitability

Overconfident decision-making in financial markets led to myriad negative consequences in the past decade, when companies underestimated business risks. 

Gilles Hilary

Gilles Hilary

In contrast to overconfidence, unrealistically optimistic judgments can result in increased profitability and market value, according to INSEAD’s Gilles Hilary and Benjamin Segal with Charles Hsu of Hong Kong University of Science & Technology.

Benjamin Segal

Benjamin Segal

Hilary, Hsu, and Segal demonstrated that over-optimism differs from overconfidence, and may result in larger growth projections.

Charles Hsu

Charles Hsu

The team drew on earlier work by University of Illinois’s Dirk Hackbarth that showed both overconfident, and overoptimistic managers chose higher debt levels and issued more new debt.
Hackbarth did not differentiate over-confident and over-optimistic investment behaviors, and reported that both tendencies reduce manager-shareholder conflict, which can increase firm value.

Dirk Hackbarth

Dirk Hackbarth

Static over-optimism” refers to an unrealistically positive view of the impact of one’s own actions on future outcomes.
In contrast, “dynamic overconfidence” refers to overvaluation of one’s skills and the accuracy of private information.
In addition, “dynamic overconfidence”  is associated with  underestimates of random events after several positive outcomes, according to Hackbarth.

Together, static over-optimism and dynamic overconfidence lead to “dynamic over-optimism” after successes.

Neil Weinstein

Neil Weinstein

The pervasiveness of this “rose-tinted glasses” view leading to over-optimistic assessments was demonstrated by Neil Weinstein of University of Arizona.
He investigated people’s beliefs about future positive and negative health events, discussed in a previous blog post.
Weinstein reported that people tend to believe negative events are less likely to happen to them than to others, whereas they expect they are more likely than other people to experience positive events.

Hilary’s team built on Hackbarth’s concepts by comparing North American companies’ quarterly earnings forecasts with analysts’ predictions and actual performance.
Then, they calculated the number of company-issued press releases containing optimistic language.

Optimistic performance forecasts were correlated with better-than-expected performance, suggesting that successes led to additional effort and positive expectations.

Hilary noted the potentiating effect of past successful performance, though it may lead to “burnout” after about four quarters due to the challenge of continually exceeding performance expectations.

The team noted that this cycle of over-optimism and burnout might be mitigated by instituting policies to moderate overestimates or underestimates future performance by rewarding executives who provide accurate forecasts.

Sheryl Winston Smith

Sheryl Winston Smith

Similarly, Temple’s Sheryl Winston Smith noted that optimistic entrepreneurs chose higher levels of debt financing relative to equity, facilitating patent-based and product-based innovation among nearly 5,000 US firms tracked by the Kauffman Firm Survey (KFS).

Young-Hoon Kim

Young-Hoon Kim

In contrast to these financial studies, Yonsei University’s Young-Hoon Kim, Nanyang Technical University’s Chi-yue Chiu and Zhimin Zou of University of Illinois reported mixed results for self-enhancing (overconfident) and self-effacing (pessimistic) biases on performance

Chiu Chi-Yue

Chiu Chi-Yue

Kim’s team posited that either over-optimistic or pessimistic biases lead to “self-handicapping” behavior, in which people perform under disadvantageous conditions that provide an explanation for any poor performance outcomes.

Although over-optimism may drive innovation and financial results, longer-term consequences may include performance “burnout,” reduced motivation, and lower performance.

-*How to you manage the impact of optimism bias and pessimism bias on judgments and performance?

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Interrogative Self-Talk Enhance Performance More Than Self-Bolstering Pep Talks

-*Do affirmative self-statements actually help people perform better?

Joanne Wood

Joanne Wood

It depends, found University of Waterloo’s Joanne Wood  and John W. Lee with Wei Qi “Elaine” (Xun) Perunovic of University of New Brunswick confirmed that  people often use positive self-statements and believe them to be effective.

However, two experiments demonstrate that the value of positive self-statements depends on the individual’s level of self-esteem.

Participants with low self-esteem who repeated a positive self-statement (“I’m a lovable person”) felt worse than people who used no positive self-statement.
They also felt worse than the comparison group when they focused on how the statement was only true.

William Swann

William Swann

Wood’s teamed referred to William Swann’s Self-Verification Theory, which suggests that people prefer that others see them as they see themselves as an explanation of these results.

Swann, of University of Texas at Austin posited that if someone has low self-esteem, a positive self-statement is inconsistent with the person’s experience and self-assessment.
As a result, it would not have “the ring of truth”, and would not have the intended bolstering effect on self-confidence and self-esteem.

This view was validated when participants with high self-esteem felt better when they repeated the positive self-statement statement and when they focused on how it was true.

Ibrahim Senay

Ibrahim Senay

Ibrahim Senay of Istanbul Sehir Universitesi, Penn’s Dolores Albarracin, and Kenji Noguchi of the University of Southern Mississippi investigated the relative impact of “declarative” self-talk, such as “positive thinking” or affirmations (“I will prevail!”) espoused by Maxwell Maltz, Norman Vincent Peale, Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie, and Anthony Robbins.
They compared this well-known self-improvement practice with “interrogative” self-talk, such as introspective self-inquiry (“Can I prevail?”).

Dolores Albarracín

Dolores Albarracín

Half the participants spent one minute asking themselves whether they would complete a series of anagrams before that actually began to work on the anagrams, whereas the other half to told themselves that they would complete the task.
Surprisingly to advocates of self-affirmation, the self-questioning group solved significantly more anagrams than the self-affirming group.

Kenji Noguchi

Kenji Noguchi

The researchers extended and replicated the finding by asking one group of volunteers to write “Will I” 20 times before attempting to solve the anagrams.
Another group wrote “I will” 20 times, and the third group wrote “Will” 20 times.
Those were “primed” with the self-questioning “Will I” solved nearly twice as many anagrams as people in the other groups.

Ibrahim Senay-Dolores Albarracín-Kenji Noguchi diagramAlbarracin suggested that “asking questions forces you to define if you really want something…even in the presence of obstacles,” so is more effective than possibly unrealistically-positive self-affirmations.
The researchers suggest that interrogative self-talk, like interrogative discussions in behavioral counseling, persuasive messages in advertising, editorials, or legal settings, and culturally “polite” behavioral requests, may elicit more intrinsically-motivated action and goal-directed behavior.

Mark Lepper

Mark Lepper

Routinely predictable extrinsic rewards can extinguish intrinsic motivation, found Stanford’s Mark Lepper and David Greene collaborated with Richard Nisbett of University of Michigan.

Richard Nisbett

Richard Nisbett

In fact, interrogative self-talk may counteract suppressors to intrinsic motivation and seems to be a learnable practice that may be transferred or “generalized” from individualized learning in counseling settings.

 

Robert Burnkrant

Robert Burnkrant

This form of inquiry can be persuasive because it focuses the listener’s attention to the argument itself if the question isn’t especially relevant to the listener, or to the message’s source if is more pertinent, reported Rohini Ahluwalia of University of Minnesota, Ohio State’s Robert Burnkrant, and Southern Methodist University’s Daniel Howard.

Min Basadur

Min Basadur

Subjunctive interrogative self-talk, rather than its rhetorical counterpart, can ignite innovation and creativity in organizational settings.
Min Basadur suggested that asking oneself and other How Might We (HMW) ….? enables innovators to defer judgment and  create more options without self-conscious limitations.

Tim Brown

Tim Brown

Embracing the uncertainty of “might” enables innovators to propose ideas “that might work or might not — either way, it’s OK. And the ‘we’ part says we’re going to do it together and build on each other’s ideas,” said Ideo’s CEO, Tim Brown.

This type of self-interrogatory, sometimes presented in group innovation “sprints” at Google Ventures, IDEO, Frog Design or other thought-leading organizations has been effectively been combined with structured innovative problem-solving:  

  • Understand by analyzing problems and requirements through process evaluation,
  • Diverge by applying constraints to “think differently,”
  • Decide by selecting solution to develop,
  • Prototype by “storyboarding” the user experience, process, obstacles,
  • Validate by testing prototypes with potential solution users.

-*Under what circumstances have you found ‘interrogative’ self-talk to enhance performance more than affirmative self-talk?

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Confidence Enables Persistence Enables Performance

Brian J. Lucas

Brian J. Lucas

People consistently underestimated the number of creative ideas they could generate if they continued working on a task, particularly on subjectively difficult innovation challenges, found Northwestern’s Brian J. Lucas and Loran F. Nordgren.

Loran Nordgren

Loran Nordgren

People who were undaunted by difficult tasks were more able to persist in developing novel ideas, and their work produced both more ideas and higher quality of innovations than they predicted.
This research suggests the benefits of “grit”, described by University of Pennsylvania’s Angela Duckworth as perseverance and passion for goals, particularly long-term objectives.

Angela Duckworth

Angela Duckworth

In Lucas and Nordgren’s research, more than 20 volunteers had 10 minutes to generate as many original ideas as possible for things to eat or drink at a U.S. Thanksgiving dinner.
Then, external judges evaluated responses for originality and suggestions rated “above average” were eligible to win a $50 lottery.

Volunteers took a break from idea generating, and estimated the number of ideas they expected to generate with another 10 minutes’ effort before they continued the idea development task.
External raters judged ideas developed in the second work phase as significantly more original than those in the initial session.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 5.14.56 PMThese results were replicated with professional comedy performers from SketchFest, the largest sketch comedy festival in the U.S.
Performers received a comedic scene set-up such as “Four people are laughing hysterically onstage. Two them high five, and everyone stops laughing immediately and someone says….”

Their task was to create as many endings as they could during four minutes and to
predict the number of endings they would develop with during an additional four minutes work time.

These professional comedians also significantly underestimated the number of ideas they would develop with on their second attempt, suggesting persistent undervaluation even among experts.
When a task seems challenging, “people decrease their expectations about how well they will perform,” argued Lucas and Norgren, even though “creative thought is a trial-and-error process that generally produces a series of failed associations before a creative solution emerges.”

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison

These findings indicate that negative expectations can reduce persistence, leading to performance below potential.
They confirm Thomas Edison’s assertion that “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to success is always to try just one more time.”

This effect was also demonstrated in comparisons of people’s numeric competency including:

  • Objective numeracy, or ability to work with numbers: “If the chance of getting a disease is 10 percent, how many people would be expected to get the disease out of 1000?
  • Subjective numeracy, a self-evaluation of math abilities: “How good are you at working with percentages?”;
    How often do you find numerical information to be useful?
  • Symbolic-number mapping abilities, or predicting and understanding numeric relationships such as a carpenter estimating the amount of wood needed for a project.
Ellen J. Peters

Ellen J. Peters

More than 110 volunteers completed tasks including remembering numbers paired to different objects, then evaluating bets based on risk.
People lower in subjective numeracy and confidence had more negative emotional reactions to numbers and were less motivated and confident in numeric tasks, reported Ohio State’s Ellen Peters with Pär Bjälkebring of University of Gothenburg.

Pär Bjälkebring

Pär Bjälkebring

This negative reaction to quantitative tasks presents significant challenges for those who still need to complete tasks like preparing annual personal income tax forms and expense reimbursement reports.

These studies replicated findings that people are not the best judges of their own skills: In fact, one in five people who said they were not good at math actually scored in the top half of an objective math test.

David Dunning

David Dunning

Conversely, one-third of people who said they were good at math actually scored in the bottom half, validating the Dunning-Kruger effect when incompetent individuals overestimating performance despite feedback.

Justin Kruger

Justin Kruger

Persistence in creative as well as tactical tasks can lead to more plentiful and higher quality results than abandoning difficult efforts.

-*How do you maintain persistence during challenging tasks?
-*How do you verify that your self-perceptions align with actual performance and other’s perceptions?

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“Default Mode Network”, Positive Mood Increase Creative Problem Solving

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud

“Aimless engagement” in an activity can enable a non-linear, integrative “free association” of ideas leading to creative breakthroughs, confirmed Drexel University’s John Kounios.

Graham Wallas

Graham Wallas

Many people recognize this experience of creative “incubation” while performing routine, well-rehearsed tasks, though they may not be aware that nearly 90 years ago, Graham Wallas of London School of Economics proposed this phenomenon one of four stages in the creativity process.

Michael D Greicius

Michael D Greicius

The brain’s posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and ventral anterior cingulate cortex (vACC) operate as a “default mode network” during this type of relaxed engagement, found Stanford’s Michael D. Greicius, Ben Krasnow, Allan L. Reiss, and Vinod Menon.

Rebecca Koppel

Rebecca Koppel

During free-flowing ideation, these brain regions “untether” thoughts from usual associational “mental ruts” to commingle in original ways.
Fixation forgetting” enables this innovative recombination of thoughts to develop innovative solutions, according to University of Illinois’s Rebecca Koppel and Benjamin C. Storm of University of California Santa Cruz.

Mark Beeman

Mark Beeman

Creative problem solving through insight also involves the right hemisphere’s anterior superior temporal gyrus (aSTG), an area associated with recognizing broad associative semantic relationships, reported Kounios and colleagues at Northwestern, Mark Beeman, Edward M Bowden, Jason Haberman, Stella Arambel-Liu, and Paul J Reber, collaborating with Kounios and Jennifer L Frymiare, also of Drexel, and Source Signal Imaging’s Richard Greenblatt.

John Kounios

John Kounios

They concluded that creative problem solving requires the ability to encode, retrieve, and evaluate information.
When insight is involved, integration of distantly related information is also needed.

Ruby Nadler

Ruby Nadler

In addition to these skills, University of Western Ontario’s Ruby T. Nadler, Rahel Rabi and John Paul Minda found that cognitive flexibility for problem-solving activates the prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex, areas important in creative hypothesis-testing and rule-selection.
Additionally, they confirmed that creative solutions can be enabled by eliciting a positive mood.

Rahel Rabi

Rahel Rabi

The team induced positive, neutral, and negative moods using music clips and video clips, and asked volunteers to classify pictures with visually complex patterns.
People in the positive-mood condition showed better classification learning than those with induced neutral or negative moods, suggesting that upbeat music effectively enhanced creative thinking while boosting innovators’ mood.

John Paul Minda

John Paul Minda

Somewhat surprisingly, capturing ideas through handwriting or typing can attenuate innovation because recording requires a shift to a more linear organization of thoughts, posited Kounios.

-*How can you capture creative solutions while maintaining innovative momentum?

-*How can you prevent “fixation forgetting” from interfering with accessing information required for creative work?

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Paradoxical Bias against Innovative Ideas in the Workplace

Jennifer Mueller

Jennifer Mueller

Managers’ implicit attitudes and cognitive “mindset” during proposal presentations can bias organizational decision-makers against innovative solutions without their awareness, according to University of San Diego’s Jennifer Mueller with Shimul Melwani of University of North Carolina and Cornell University’s Jack Goncalo.

Shimul Melwani

Shimul Melwani

Mueller and team pointed out a paradox:  Most managers say they want innovative solutions to workplace issues from team members, yet often reject these creative ideas to reduce risk and uncertainty.

The team asked volunteers to rate a running shoe equipped with nanotechnology that improved fit and reduced potential to develop blisters.

Jack Goncalo

Jack Goncalo

They “primed” some participants toward increased uncertainty in this task by telling them that there were many potential answers to a problem.
In contrast, they cued another group with reduced uncertainty by instructing them that a problem required a single solution.

When volunteers who said they favored creative ideas experienced uncertainty, they preferred concepts of practicality on an implicit word association test, and associated “creativity” with negative concepts including “vomit,” “poison” and “agony.”

Uncertain participants also rated the shoe as significantly less creative than those in the more structured condition, suggesting that were less able to recognize a creative idea and held an unconscious “negative bias against creativity.”

Cheryl Wakslak

Cheryl Wakslak

In more recent work, Mueller collaborated with University of Southern California’s Cheryl Wakslak and Viswanathan Krishnan with University of California, San Diego to expand the idea assessment scenario with two ideas that were independently rated as “creative,” and two ideas judged “not creative.”

Vish Krishnan

Vish Krishnan

Mueller, Wakslak and Krishnan cued some participants to consider “why” in evaluating creative ideas, to evoke broad, abstract thinking, and “high-level construal.
They instructed other volunteers to think about “how” creative idea works, to stimulate narrow focus on practical details and logistics, and “low-level construal.”

Although participants in both groups rated two non-creative ideas similarly, those who adopted a “high-level construal” or a “why” mindset recognized creative ideas more often than those using the “how” mindset.

As an idea’s degree of creativity increases, uncertainty also increases about its feasibility, acceptability, and practicality.
This increased risk may reduce evaluators’ willingness to accept and advocate for an innovative idea, even when objective evidence is presented to validate a creative idea.

To mitigate the paradoxical rejection of creative ideas, organizational leaders can ask team members to consider “why” when creative evaluating proposals to enable “big picture” thinking and a broader construal level.

-*How do you encourage innovative solutions to work challenges?

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Time of Day Affects Problem Solving Abilities

People differ in their circadian rhythms, which determine times of greatest mental alertness, reflected in body temperature differences.

James A Horne

James A Horne

Morningness” describes people who awaken easily and are most alert early in the morning, whereas “eveningness” refers to “night owls” who awaken later and feel most alert late in the day, according to Loughborough University’s James A. Horne and colleague O. Östberg, who developed a self-report questionnaire to distinguish these these temporal preferences.

Mareike Wieth

Mareike Wieth

Creative problem solving is more effective at “non-optimal” times of day for both “morning people” and “night people,” according to Albion College’s Mareike B. Wieth and Rose T. Zacks of Michigan State University.

Rose Zacks

Rose Zacks

They studied volunteers who solved insight problems and analytic problems at their optimal or non-optimal time of day and found consistently better performance on insight problem-solving during non-optimal times, but no consistent effect for analytic problem solving.

During non-optimal times, people may be more distractible, less focused and more able to consider diverse information, alternatives, and interpretations.
These conditions can enable innovative thinking and creativity.

William Hrushesky

William Hrushesky

William Hrushesky, formerly of University of South Carolina, argued that “timing is everything” in medical treatment, and Wieth and Zacks’ findings suggest suggests that working at “off-peak” times is effective for tasks that require creative thinking rather than analytic rigor.

-*How do you sequence your work tasks to enhance performance during “non-optimal” and “peak” times of day?

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