Is Being a Jerk Necessary for Originality? Examining the Role of Disagreeableness in the Sharing and Utilization of Original Ideas

Abstract

Purpose

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.

Design/Methodology/Approach

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.

Findings

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.

Implications

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.

Originality/Value

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.

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Appendices

Appendix 1

You have been asked to develop a new advertising campaign for *University X*. Specifically, given the growth of the on-line campus here at *University X*, we would like you to develop a marketing campaign aimed at improving awareness and increasing excitement about the new options available. You have a sizable budget and relatively few constraints in your endeavor. Good luck!

Appendix 2

Initial Task

Each year [this university] has thousands of students visit campus to decide if they should choose this school to receive their education. During this visit, students see our campus and all of the senior gifts that have been donated to it. What we would like you to do is to think of new senior gifts that would enhance our campus and make it more attractive to incoming students. The gifts can be temporary, unlike previous gifts, and range in price from $1,000 to $30,000. Describe your gift, what it would look like, where it would be placed and how it might operate. Finally, describe what you think the impact would be on visiting students and their parents.

Final Task

In 25 years from now, what will it be like to live on campus? Describe what the dorms would look like, what kind of amenities they would offer, and how this would help students. Consider student’s typical daily life as well specific times of the school year. You can also think about areas the students share such as dining facilities, the gym, parking lots, and study areas.”

Appendix 3

SUPPORTIVE FEEDBACK Confederates will draw from this response category using these responses as guidelines. Reponses may be altered slightly to fit the nature of the exchange. These alterations may include the discussion of specific elements of the participant’s ideas to add fidelity to the interactions.

I think that is a great ideait could really work!

I really like the part where you (insert specific comment here)that makes a lot of sense.

Students would really like that; what a cool idea.

Nice job on thatI think it’s very creative.

UNSUPPORTIVE FEEDBACK Confederates will draw from this response category using these responses as guidelines. Reponses may be altered slightly to fit the nature of the exchange. These alterations may include the discussion of specific elements of the participant’s ideas to add fidelity to the interactions.

I don’t think that’s a very good ideaI doubt it would work.

I don’t really like the part where you (insert specific comment here)it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

I don’t think students would really like it very much.

I don’t think that idea is very creative; seems like it’s been done before.

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Hunter, S.T., Cushenbery, L. Is Being a Jerk Necessary for Originality? Examining the Role of Disagreeableness in the Sharing and Utilization of Original Ideas. J Bus Psychol 30, 621–639 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-014-9386-1

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Keywords

  • Creativity
  • Personality
  • Agreeableness
  • Teams