Respectful engagement cultivates higher levels of creativity

March 29, 2016

Research by Jane Dutton and Ashley Hardin, in conjunction with Abraham Carmeli of Tel Aviv University, demonstrates that how people engage with their colleagues has an impact beyond what they may expect. In fact, respectfully engaging with colleagues actually generates higher levels of creativity at both the individual and team levels.

In a more demanding work world, the cultivation of respect is challenging, this research reminds us that respectfully engaging is not just a nice thing to do, but has the potential to provide strategic advantage for organizations through cultivating creativity.

Respectful engagement—interrelating that conveys a sense of presence, worth, and positive regard—encompasses behaviors such as recognizing another person, understanding and appreciating them, listening, attending to their needs, emphasizing their good qualities, and making requests not demands of them. Respectful engagement among colleagues signals acceptance and genuine mutual interest in one another, which develops a greater capacity for deeper and more nuanced information processing about work. In particular, this type of interaction leads to relational information processing—the process through which organizational members use conversation to reflect upon their goals and work.

By facilitating relational information processing, respectful engagement ultimately creates higher levels of creativity. This type of information processing exposes individuals to more ideas and makes them more attentive to shared ideas. Additionally, it encourages greater reflection of these ideas, resulting in more unique ideas and different combinations of perspectives to create novel solutions.

Dutton and Hardin found support for this argument across four studies at both the individual and team levels. Their article reveals the way a particular form of interrelating, respectful engagement, can facilitate important organizational outcomes, such as creativity. Learn more in the full article, published in Human Relations.