Being "PC" Boosts Team Performance

Meeting 2

When male-female groups were instructed to be politically correct, they more readily shared creative ideas. Published in Administrative Science Quarterly, a Cornell University study of 582 participants disproves what many believe about political correctness. According to Jack Goncalo, associate professor of organizational behavior in the ILR School, "Our work challenges the widespread assumption that true creativity requires a kind of anarchy in which people are permitted to speak their minds, whatever the consequence."

In the study, some teams of three were asked to be "politically correct" or "polite," while other teams received no instructions. Teams then generated ideas, and researchers tracked the number of unique ideas.

Goncalo summarized the results: 

"[Political correctness] facilitates idea expression by reducing the uncertainty that people tend to experience while interacting with the opposite sex. The PC norm, by establishing a clear guideline for how to behave appropriately in mixed-sex groups, made both men and women more comfortable sharing their creative ideas."

Discussion Starters: 

  • What, if anything, about the study results surprise you? 
  • How does this affect your own participation in teams? Would you do anything differently?