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How do you get the best ideas? Two key personality combos could help!

How do you get the best ideas? Two key personality combos could help!

If you want to get the best ideas from your team, try combining the innovators with the extroverts. Here’s why.

There has been some good science for decades identifying that the most creative and innovative individuals have high levels of openness to new ideas, opportunities and experiences. You know the person — the one who orders a different dish at a new restaurant and goes to weird bands and way out places because they are curious to know whether it will be good or not. This correlation of openness to innovation holds true in both science and the arts. But is it enough to be an individual who is inherently open to new ideas and experiences when it comes to thinking up great ideas? Believe it or not, the answer is no! Without the goldilocks of social and environmental factors, natural innovators only produce average quality ideas like the rest of us. To get the best ideas, you should team innovators with extroverts before you start brainstorming.

The theory as to why this combination results in the most creative and high-quality ideas comes down to a few things.

Let’s start with what is known about factors that lead to innovation and great ideas. Innovation is the development of novel ideas or novel combinations. Innovation requires exposure to a large amount and variety of information and experiences. Following exposure, innovation is the capacity to cherry-pick the best solution to a problem. Let’s face it, the best ideas rarely manifest in a vacuum. To allow naturally curious individuals the opportunity to explore new ideas, they need exposure to lots of richness, diversity and difference.

So how do you get exposure to lots of new experiences and ideas? Enter the role of the extrovert.

Extroverts tend to have larger, more diverse networks than their introverted colleagues.  They tend to have high verbal fluency (i.e. they talk a lot) and are willingly share their ideas and experiences in detail. The volume of information provided by extroverts gives innovators lots of information in rich detail. A great innovator can ask questions to probe chatty extroverts to push the conversation into useful directions. With a high volume of information and experiences, innovators are able to select the best of the bunch and THAT is how you get natural innovators to produce the best ideas.

If you want to read about this research in full (and learn a bit about the Indian wedding industry at the same time), check out this working paper from Harvard Business school:

Next time you have a problem to solve at work, team up your deep and different thinkers with your chatterboxes and watch the magic happen!