Being politically correct helps teams of mixed genders arrive at more creative solutions. Knowing what is acceptable to say creates predictability, and predictability frees group members from worry of possibly offending those around them.
A group of researchers at Cornell University arrived at these conclusions after asking 483 students of both genders to solve an open-ended problem (which encourages creative solutions): What kind of business should be built on an empty lot?
“The groups that were politically correct — for instance, who avoided sexist language — generated a greater number of ideas, and more novel ideas, than groups operating without the norm.”
Researchers found that using the term “politically correct” was important when it came to creating a safe atmosphere for sharing ideas. Instructing teams to be “polite” or “inoffensive” brought to surface differences of opinion about what those words mean. But political correctness seems to have a more commonly understood meaning.
Interestingly, same-sex groups were less creative when instructed to be politically correct. Researchers concluded that among people who are already on the same page, the burden of being politically correct placed an unnecessary mental strain on the creative process.
In his Big Think interview, Jason Friedman gives more tips about creating a workplace environment that enables creativity and promotes the free (but not unstructured) flow of ideas:
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