How would your level of creativity differ if you had different friends? How would your critical thinking skills be different if you had different co-workers? Dr. Jill Perry-Smith’s work in organizational psychology and informal social networks delves into the possibility that who you know directly influences your ability to achieve creative and innovative success.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering she went to work for Exxon, managing refinery projects. While working for the energy company she began the part-time MBA program at Pepperdine University. The combination of working with traditionally introverted engineers and taking organizational psychology courses led her to thinking more about the power of social networks for critical thinking and creative skills in the work place. Perry-Smith states, “I found the topic to be fascinating given my work as an engineer. I consider engineers to be creative problem solvers but are not generally considered to be very social.” It would seem that these highly lauded job skills are not determined by the size of your social network, but by who you select as its members.
The idea of using your social network as a muse might sound like an odd one. The theory does not mean that growing your list of Facebook friends will make you the next Monet. In fact, that type if social network isn’t what the Emory University professor means at all. She believes that while we are more connected than we have ever been before because of the reach of the World Wide Web, these relationships don’t always create the quality connections that we need to get our creative juices flowing.
On the concept of “social,” Perry-Smith believes:
Being social can mean many things. My focus is on relationships and social interactions and which ones boost our creativity. As someone who doesn’t consider herself to be highly social, I cringe at the idea that we need to talk to many people and flow in and out of various receptions and gatherings with many people I do not know. So, my work reveals that this is really not necessary to boost creativity.”
TEDxPeachtree 2015 will explore the theme of “Ripple” and examine examples of ripple effects. Perry-Smith comments, “I think of a ripple as an effect that spans out widely beyond the initial force that started the ripple in the first place. I hope that my work will cause that type of carryover effect beyond the conference. I hope that as we think about our interactions going forward, my work may prompt a slight adjustment that may yield important new outcomes – like creativity.”
She describes her upcoming November TEDxPeachtree appearance as, “Interesting, novel and research based.” This will be her first TED talk and she looks forward to sharing her ideas with the audience and the opportunity to discuss those concepts with them afterwards. No doubt quite a few conversations will be had that will inspire creativity and innovation for both attendees and speakers alike.
Maria Pinkelton is the Senior Communication Specialist for Cox Media Group – Technology. She lives in Decatur with her husband and son, along with a fine collection of craft beer and size 11 shoes.