New research suggests political correctness may actually aid the creativity of mixed-sex work teams.
Cornell University investigators discovered that although the concept of political correctness is often met with ridicule and suspicion, the practice appears to have benefit. Their findings are published in the journal Administrative Science Quarterly.
“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,” said Dr. Jack Goncalo, an associate professor of organizational behavior.
For the increasingly diverse workplace, the research justifies political correctness beyond moral grounds.
In two experiments with 582 participants, groups of three were randomly instructed to be “politically correct” or “polite.” Some groups didn’t receive any instructions.
All were then asked to spend 10 minutes brainstorming business ideas. Creativity was measured by counting the number of ideas generated and by coding them for novelty.
Contrary to the widely held notion that being politically correct has a generally stifling effect, the results showed that a politically correct norm actually boosted the creative output of mixed-sex groups.
Researchers believe the findings illuminate the paradoxical consequences of the politically correct norm.
Although political correctness has often been associated with lowered expectations and a censor of behavior, the new culture actually provides a foundation upon which demographically heterogeneous work groups can freely exchange creative ideas, Goncalo said.
“[Political correctness] facilitates idea expression by reducing the uncertainty that people tend to experience while interacting with the opposite sex,” he said.
“The PC norm, by establishing a clear guideline for how to behave appropriately in m ixed-sex groups, made both men and women more comfortable sharing their creative ideas.”
What the research findings mean for gender relations is troubling, Goncalo said.
“The fact that men and women still experience a high level of uncertainty while working together and that a norm as restrictive as political correctness provided a safer environment for free expression means we still have a lot of work to do.”
Source: Cornell University