Go Ahead, Criticize Me for Creativity

Doll by Sara

A few days ago I wrote to a friend, someone I actively work with these days, and apologized. I felt like maybe I'd not been agreeable enough lately.

To my great surprise, she wrote back and said I should not apologize. She loves the way we work together—how we freely criticize each other's ideas, to reach toward a common goal outside of ourselves, to be as creative as we can possibly be and find the best solutions.

I felt a great sense of comfort in her words. To think, she believed that our process needn't be all simple and agreeable. What a relief.

But tonight, reading The New Yorker, I discovered I should be more than relieved. I should be really, really pleased to have a relationship like this.

It turns out that the old idea of brainstorming and being agreeable about all ideas that are put on the table is not the best way to produce optimal creativity and quality solutions.

In a study by Charlan Nemeth, at U.C. Berkeley, it was noted, "Our findings show that debate and criticism do not inhibit ideas but, rather, stimulate them relative to every other condition."

In my world, I'd still like the criticism to be respectful, even playful, but now I can relax and enjoy a good debate, seeing it for the creative possibility it presents.

I might even send this little message to my friend, "Go ahead, criticize me—for our best creativity."

Doll Sculpture by Sara.

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