It may seem counterintuitive to build teams that include multiple people with narcissistic personality traits; these folks tend to want to be the center of attention and in charge. However, if you want to spur creative thinking and problem-solving in the workplace, this is exactly what you should do.
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It makes sense that the belief in one’s own superiority would give narcissists the confidence to engage in original thinking and spur creativity. They’re more likely to think, “After all, if it’s my idea, it must be a good one.” In reality, any individual narcissist is no more or less creative than the rest of the population. The key is putting them together, according to the British Psychological Society’s report on new research at Cornell University.
Narcissistic Personality Inventory
The term “narcissism” is overused today, and every person who likes to be the center of attention or has an especially healthy dose of confidence does not qualify for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In short, narcissism as a personality trait is excessive self-love. We all need to have some appreciation for ourselves, but like so many good things, too much may be problematic.
Test subjects at Cornell University completed a standardized measure of narcissism to place them in either the narcissistic or control groups. They then took creativity tests; the results were that the two groups scored in the same range for creativity, even if the narcissistic group thought they were more creative and capable.
It may seem like a bad idea to ask narcissists to work together. However, that is exactly what the researchers did. They put narcissists in pairs and controls in pairs, and gave each pair a creativity test to work on as a team. The narcissistic pairs excelled. One interpretation is that the need to be the best caused a healthy level of competition and creative tension. Knowing that in order to succeed they had to work together, they worked together and did well.
Team leaders can use this tidbit of psychological research to spur creativity, original thinking, and problem-solving in the workplace. Put those confident, in-charge, and center-of-attention-loving employees together as a duo or part of a larger team, and watch them bring improvements to the business.
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