Seeing through Another's Creative Eyes

Seeing through Another's Creative Eyes

Photo: © 2014 Rodney Brown


"Creativity is a precondition for innovation, and that creativity and innovation are enhanced by the existence of diversity." This is a point Nigel-Bassett-Jones highlights in his study on the paradox of diversity management, creativity, and innovation.



He notes how combining diversity with trusting working relationships and an understanding of the unique backgrounds, skills, and experiences individuals bring to the table has been shown to enhance an organization's creativity and problem-solving capabilities.

Relatedly, research by Inga J. Hoever and colleagues published in the Journal of Applied Psychology on unlocking diversity's potential to foster team creativity shows how perspective taking by team members ("an attempt to understand the thoughts, motives, and feelings of another person") is an important factor for unlocking the creative potential of diverse teams by helping teams explore different viewpoints and uncover new information. 

Importantly, the research by Hoever and colleagues also shows how perspective taking can reduce stereotyping and cultivate cooperative behavior. This supports research by Adam Galinsky and colleagues showing that "perspective taking by majority group members decreases stereotyping, reduces racial bias, increases recognition of racial discrimination, and promotes smoother interracial relations."

Here's a simple exercise to put perspective taking into context. Imagine going for a ride on a Ferris wheel. Along the way, what you observe is constantly changing (interestingly, Ferris wheels are also known as observation wheels). Whether you can see the horizon or some interesting landmark in the distance all depends on where you are in the big wheel's rotation. And what you're observing along the way is different from what other riders are seeing at any given moment. Considering how the world looks at different points along the way can be helpful in understanding how apparently similar experiences can take on different meanings depending on where someone sits in relation to another.

Atticus Finch captures this idea beautifully in his advice to Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view[...] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

Admittedly, taking an imaginary ride through the rotations of a Ferris wheel is a simplified version of the personal work it takes to try to step into another's shoes and see life from his or her perspective. But for organizations that are able to successfully help teams take this journey, they can help teams to uncover a uniqueness of perspectives that unlocks creativity.




Bassett-Jones, Nigel, The Paradox of Diversity Management, Creativity and Innovation, Creativity and Innovation Management, Vol. 14, No. 2, June 2005, pp., 169-175.

Galinsky, Adam D., Andrew R. Todd, Astrid C. Homan, Katherine W. Phillips, Evan P. Apfelbaum, Stacey J. Sasaki, Jennifer A. Richeson, Jennifer B. Olayton, & William W. Maddux, Maximizing the Gains and Minimizing the Pains of Diversity: A Policy Perspective, Perspectives on Psychological Science, Vol. 10, No. 6, Nov. 2015, pp. 742-748.

Hoever, Inga J., Daan van Knippenberg, Wendy P. van Ginkel, & Harry G. Barkema, Fostering Team Creativity: Perspective Taking as Key to Unlocking Diversity's Potential, Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 97, No. 5, Sept. 2012, pp. 982-996.

Lee, Harper, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, First Edition (Paperback), New York, 2002, Chap. 3, p. 33.