Friday, December 30, 2022

New Year Brings Choice: More Distinctive or More Conventional?

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As we approach the new year, we have a choice as individuals and as organizations: Will we become more distinctive or more conventional in our work?  Are we open to experimenting, testing new ideas, and learning by doing?  Or, will we play it safe because we fear negative feedback, criticism, and perhaps failure?  Leaders too need to think about the message they send to their team members.  Are they creating a climate where people are more likely to fall in line with the conventional wisdom, or are they establishing a culture where people are willing to try new things?  Moreover, leaders need to consider how team members interpret certain results and feedback that they receive.  Will that feedback encourage them to continue to push boundaries, or will it stifle their creativity instead?

Interestingly, new research by Giacomo Negro, Balázs Kovács, and Glenn Carroll explores this very question. The scholars published their work in the American Sociological Review earlier this year.  These scholars studied professional musicians. In fact, they collected data on more than 125,000 albums by a wide variety of musical artists. Negro and his colleagues examined how artists' work evolved after either winning a Grammy award vs. earning a nomination but not winning an award. The researchers discovered that Grammy winners tend to "release albums that are more likely to stand out stylistically from other artists." In contrast, the nominees who did not win awards tended to produce subsequent music that was more similar to the work of fellow artists.  

Negro and his colleagues argue that winning an award inspires musicians to take a chance and produce new music that is original and adventurous.  They try different styles and even explore new genres.  The scholars use the Irish rock band U2 as an example.  The band earned  Grammy awards for its groundbreaking Joshua Tree album in the late 1980s, yet Bono and his bandmates chose to try on a very different style with the subsequent album, Achtung Baby.  They went on to earn a Grammy award for that music as well.  

What happens when artists simply get nominated, but fail to win an award? They appear to become more conventional.   Why?  Negro argues, "One possible interpretation is that the nominees interpret the feedback on their artistic choices as essentially negative feedback or a negative signal that what they tried to do did not win them the award."

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