There’s No Team in I: How Observers Perceive Individual Creativity in a Team Setting

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Creativity is highly valued in organizations as an important source of innovation. As most creative projects require the efforts of groups of individuals working together, it is important to understand how creativity is perceived for team products, including how observers attribute creative ability to focal actors who worked as part of a creative team. Evidence from three experiments suggests that observers commit the fundamental attribution error—systematically discounting the contribution of the group when assessing the creative ability of a single group representative, particularly when the group itself is not visually salient. In a pilot study, we found that, in the context of the design team at Apple, a target group member visually depicted alone is perceived to have greater personal creative ability than when he is visually depicted with his team. In Study 1, using a sample of managers, we conceptually replicated this finding and further observed that, when shown alone, a target member of a group that produced a creative product is perceived to be as creative as an individual described as working alone on the same output. In Study 2, we replicated the findings of Study 1 and also observed that a target group member depicted alone, rather than with his team, is also attributed less creative ability for uncreative group output. Findings are discussed in light of how overattribution of individual creative ability can harm organizations in the long run.

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