Quality Digest: Creativity May Suffer When Mature Projects Change Hands
Originally found at Quality Digest by Dylan Walsh
Justin Berg has watched Back to the Future at least 25 times. Same with the DVD special features—the voiceovers and backstory and interviews. It’s his favorite movie, and he’s long believed that part of the film’s greatness is attributable to the fact that writer-director Robert Zemeckis oversaw the project’s full arc, from birth to release.
“Zemeckis spent several years working on the screenplay before he even started shooting,” says Berg, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business. “I think if instead he’d been handed a screenplay that someone else had written, he wouldn’t have had a vision for the film that was so unique and developed, so unified and coherent.”
This possibility got Berg, who studies creativity and innovation, thinking. Most research on implementing creative ideas focuses on how people successfully win support for their ideas from others. But what about, he wondered, actually building creative ideas into creative final products? Once support for an idea exists, what contributes to its successful execution?
A new article in the Academy of Management Journal, co-authored with former Stanford GSB doctoral alumna Alisa Yu, finds that, in line with Berg’s intuition, handing a mature idea to somebody else for execution harms the creativity of the final product. Instead, people should be involved with creative projects from relatively early in their development because this helps lay the foundation for building creative final products. Specifically, it gives “implementers” a sense of psychological ownership over the outcome—a conviction that the project is truly theirs—and helps them develop a coherent vision.
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Read the original research in Academy of Management Journal
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