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Acting Territorial Kills Creative Feedback

Managers work hard to foster creativity in the workplace, but “territorial marking” can squash the free flow of ideas among colleagues, according to new research.

“We are not talking about putting up walls or physically de-marking a space,” says Markus Baer, associate professor of organizational behavior at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Territorial marking comes in all sizes and shapes. However, just saying, ‘I consider this to be my idea,’ when asking others for their input can have far-reaching consequences for collaboration.”

Baer and his coauthor, Graham Brown of the University of Victoria, conducted two research studies. They found when a person claims an idea as her or his own in the workplace, it’s likely a sign of that person’s deep sense of ownership. However, in a professional context that stresses creativity and collaboration, that territorial marking discourages creative, constructive feedback from coworkers.

The researchers showed that when someone marks an idea and then presents it to others, less creative feedback is provided. Marking made it less likely that others felt a sense of responsibility associated with the concept’s outcome, and so lost motivation to provide input. Not only does this stifle...

Neuroscientists Have Figured Out Why You Can’t Concentrate at Work

Even though most people think about themselves as primarily visual beings, neuroscience reveals a complex “connectome” of brain cells that connects all of our senses. Try writing a report in a noisy, uncomfortable place with the smells of the office microwave wafting over to your desk, and the importance of other senses becomes clear.

As a neuro-architect, I study how the brain processes all of our senses when we experience design. After all, design isn’t just aesthetic: It also includes the senses of sound, touch, and smell, as well as integrating information we receive from our sense of balance, pressure, pain, and the position of our body within a given place. Together, the perception of all these senses informs our response to architecture—and our attention.

This is particularly true of sound. Studies at the Human Experience Lab at Perkins+Will have revealed how important workplace acoustics are to performance and satisfaction, and that good acoustic design equals good business. Our 2016 study of brainwaves showed how different sound environments are associated with distraction and interruption in the workplace. The results also showed us statistically significant changes in creativity scores associated with different acoustic conditions: Workers reported that they...

Six Ways To Be a More Approachable Leader

Never underestimate the importance of being approachable to effectively managing your organization. When you are approachable, people can relate to you. They understand what is needed for success and are willing to do what it takes to get the work done. When others believe you are open to hearing what they have to say, they will tell you the things you need to know.

Being approachable doesn’t mean that you have to stop what you’re doing whenever someone needs your attention. It does mean that when you give your attention, you give it fully. Here is what it looks like. You are:

Open to hearing about new and different ways of doing things. You know that the more minds and hearts that are supporting success, the better. You are willing to consider possibilities you hadn’t thought of before no matter who suggests them. You are open to criticism and able to take it in and consider the truth in what you hear.

Inclusive of all those who have a stake in the success of your organization. You make sure that everyone, even the quiet ones, are heard when big decisions are made that will involve them. You...

Want to Make Smarter, Faster Decisions?

Whenever I have a conflict—Should I take this gig? Move to that apartment? Order a $30 pug T-shirt I don’t need?—my boyfriend suggests that I write a pro-con list. I tend to resist: Pro-con lists can be helpful, no doubt. But they often feel like a zero-sum game—with the extensive costs and benefits canceling each other out.

As it turns out, there’s a way to upgrade your pro-con list so that you can make smarter, faster decisions. It involves adding a third element: Mitigations.

According to an article in First Round ReviewGil Shklarski, chief technology officer at Flat Iron Health and a former software engineer at Facebook and Microsoft, came up with the idea. When facing a difficult decision with two or more possible solutions, Shklarski has his teams write exhaustive lists of the potential costs and benefits for each solution.

Then he asks them to write “mitigations” for each solution. “This is where the facilitator should walk the group through how to soften, allay, or distribute the risks associated with each of the options,” Shklarski tells First Round. “If you didn’t do it already, this exercise forces you and everyone to think...

Beware Attempting to Fix a Difficult Employee

New(er) managers often step all over this issue of fixing people. I know I did. Twice. Both situations ended in disasters. The lesson: it’s never your job to fix a difficult employee.

It turns out that regardless of your great intentions, powers of moral suasion, and investment in time, sweat, and tears, you cannot fix a person. The individual in question has to want to change. You can set the stage and provide the opportunities, but you have a lot less influence on this situation than you might think.

In my coaching work with first-time managers, I encounter the fixing people phenomenon fairly frequently. In most cases, the manager truly believes she is doing her job by providing long, drawn-out counseling sessions, appealing to the difficult individual’s greater sense of good, or, providing second chances 10 times over. In reality, the manager is missing the mark, damaging her reputation, and damaging team performance.

An Extreme Attempt to Fix a Difficult Employee

I run a case in my courses and workshops that showcase a manager’s over-the-top support over a period of a few years for an individual who was brilliant, but toxic to the environment. This very...