Territorial marking kills workplace creativity, according to a new study from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
“We are not talking about putting up walls or physically de-marking a space,” said Markus Baer, associate professor of organizational behavior at Olin Business School and co-author of the study. “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 co-author Graham Brown from the University of Victoria in British Columbia conducted two studies. They found that when people claim ideas as their own it’s because they have deep senses of ownership. However, this marking discourages feedback from co-workers.
“The first idea is rarely the best,” Baer said. “Creative ideas have to be nurtured and developed and this often happens in the context of collaborating with others. However, when all the credit goes to the person who has the original idea, they will try to signal their ownership of it. Naturally, this makes other people less motivated to contribute and can squelch the creativity of their comments and suggestions. In this way, the original idea may never be developed to its fullest potential.”
Baer suggests creating an environment where offering feedback is valued as much as having the original idea.
“The credit has to be shared equally,” he said. “Marking our ideas only has benefits when those we seek out for feedback are more concerned with pleasing us, or are preoccupied with maintaining a positive relationship with us.”