What is the commonality between scientific collaborators, successful Broadway musical production teams, and the Boston Red Sox have in common? This was something that was researched a few years ago by Northwestern University and their results have driven innovation management software for businesses packages ever since. Essentially, the study look at a wealth of teams known to be highly creative and who had exhibited phenomenal performances when they worked together.
Unsurprisingly, one of the key things they found was that each team was made up of a fantastic diversity of people and individuals. Indeed, no two people in any of the teams were even remotely the same. However, this diversity was seen not solely in the age differences, gender differences, or ethnic differences between the participants. While those differences were also present, those weren’t the ones that caused true breakthrough performances. What was far more important, and turned out to be the true key predictor, was that the best performing teams had people in it that had been there a while and that had a lot of experience, but also a few newer members who were very new to the field. Indeed, in the study, teams with nothing but experienced people, so those that didn’t add any newbies, didn’t do as well as those who did add new people. Clearly, therefore, it is the influx of new blood and new ideas, combined with existing experience, that brings about real innovation.
So how does this apply to your team? Is it simply as easy as adding some new members to a team that is feeling a bit staid and old? Well, according to Northwestern University, that is exactly what is needed. Best of all, you don’t need to create a full time position for someone new. Simply bringing them in for a couple of hours to brainstorm is all that is needed!
So What about Facial Hair?
One of the best ways to increase creativity is to expose teams to a range of different forms of information, from a wealth of different sources. Those sources can be really unexpected, in fact. Consider, for example, that research has consistently shown over half of all people believe that men who are clean shaven are more honest than those who have a beard. The reason for this is that a face full of fur is something people subconsciously associate with poor hygiene, concealment, and diabolical intent. Yes, really.
If you have ever looked at the Forbes Top 100 list of the richest people of the world. What you will find is that not one individual on that list has a beard. In fact, very few have so much as a moustache! Similarly, no candidate running for American presidency has had a moustache or a beard since 1910.
To take this back to innovation, if you do want to get your creative juices flowing, particularly if you have brought in an outsider to help with this, then make sure everybody has a shave first!