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File Under DUH: A More Civil Workplace Boosts Creativity

A new study probes what happens when the workplace is informed by “political correctness.”

What if instead of using the phrase “politically-correct” we just used the word “civility”? Would it strip the former phrase of anything other than its crude and irrational cultural associations? Would it do any harm to the truth? These are ginormous questions for another day, but if one thing’s for sure, if we used the word civility in the place of politically-correct we likely wouldn’t need Cornell University’s recent 46-page study bravely debunking the notion that “imposing a norm to be politically correct (PC)” among men and women in the workplace would “necessarily stifle creativity.” Who would’ve thought that professional cultures promoting civility between men and women wouldn’t transform them into desolate automatons content to dither away the workday building rubber band balls, reading CNN headlines, and steadily drooling?

The study, published in the journal Administrative Science Quarterly, chronicles two experiments conducted with 582 subjects in mixed-sex brainstorming sessions: one in which they’re instructed to be politically correct and one in which they’re not. In an unforeseeable twist of fate, the groups that consistently generated the most creative and innovative business ideas were the ones that discouraged inappropriate banter, gender-biased language and sexist stereotypes.

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