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Got a Great Idea? Maybe Don't Take Credit for It

Got a Great Idea? Maybe Don't Take Credit for It
Credit: Rusian Grumble/Shutterstock

Have you had a great idea at work? Your company might be better off if you didn't take credit for it, new research shows.

Employees who are quick to claim an idea as their own when presenting it to co-workers for feedback aren't giving their concept the best chance to reach its full potential, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

The study's authors found that when workers take credit for coming up with an idea, their colleagues aren't as willing to provide creative and constructive feedback. This type of "territorial marking" makes others feel like they don't have much of a stake in the concept's outcome, so they lose motivation to provide input, the research found.

"Just saying, 'I consider this to be my idea,' when asking others for their input can have far-reaching consequences for collaboration," Markus Baer, one of the study's authors and an associate professor of organizational behavior at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a statement.

The researchers said that such statements not only hurt creativity but also limit the idea's full potential, because feedback from others isn't being considered. Baer said the first idea is rarely the best one and that creative ideas often develop in the context of collaborating with others. [See Related Story: Creativity Requires Confidence: How to Get More of Both]

"However, when all the credit goes to the person who has the original idea, they will try to signal their ownership of it," Baer said. "Naturally, this makes other people less motivated to contribute, and can squelch the creativity of their comments and suggestions."

A person's approach to presenting an idea has a large impact on whether his or her co-workers will offer feedback. Baer said it is important to create a workplace environment where creative feedback is valued as much as having the original idea.

"The credit has to be shared equally," he said. "Marking our ideas only has benefits when those we seek out for feedback are more concerned with pleasing us, or are preoccupied with maintaining a positive relationship with us."

The study was co-authored by Graham Brown, of the University of Victoria in Canada.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.