Is Being a Jerk Necessary for Originality? Examining the Role of Disagreeableness in the Sharing and Utilization of Original Ideas
We aimed to investigate the relationship between lower levels of agreeableness (i.e., disagreeableness) and innovation process such as idea generation, promotion, and group utilization, as well as potential contextual moderators of these relationships.
In the first laboratory study (n = 201), we examined links among individual and group measures of agreeableness, originality of ideas generated, and group utilization of ideas. In a second laboratory study (n = 291), we utilized confederates in an on-line environment to investigate the originality of ideas shared with group members after manipulating both feedback and originality of ideas generated by others.
In study 1, disagreeableness was generally unrelated to the originality of ideas generated, but positively related to group utilization of ideas. Similar trends were observed in study 2 with the caveat that disagreeableness was positively linked to originality of ideas shared only when the social context was unsupportive of novel ideas and confederate group members shared original ideas.
Disagreeable personalities may be helpful in combating the challenges faced in the innovation process, but social context is also critical. In particular, an environment supportive of original thinking may negate the utility of disagreeableness and, in fact, disagreeableness may hamper the originality of ideas shared.
Few studies have investigated the relationship between disagreeableness and originality and even fewer have examined both the social context and stage of innovation in which these relationships may occur. Results suggest there is value in considering each in future investigations.