The psychology of innovation

  Why are so few companies truly innovative?

  Innovation is key to business survival,and companies put substantial resources into inspiring employees to develop new ideas. There are, nevertheless, people working in luxurious, state-of-the-art centres designed to stimulate innovation who find that their environment doesn’t make them feel at all creative. And there are those who don’t have a budget, or much space, but who innovate successfully.

  For Robert B. Cialdini, Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, one reason that companies don’t succeed as often as they should is that innovation starts with recruitment. Research shows that the fit between an employee’s values and a company’s values makes a difference to what contribution they make and whether, two years after they join, they’re still at the company. Studies at Harvard Business School show that, although some individuals may be more creative than others, almost every individual can be creative in the right circumstances.

  One of the most famous photographs in the story of rock’n’roll emphasises Ciaidini’s views. The 1956 picture of singers Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis jamming at a piano in Sun Studios in Memphis tells a hidden story. Sun’s ‘million-dollar quartet’ could have been a quintet. Missing from the picture is Roy Orbison, a greater natural singer than Lewis, Perkins or Cash. Sam Phillips, who owned Sun, wanted to revolutionise popular music with songs that fused black and white music, and country and blues. Presley, Cash, Perkins and Lewis instinctively understood Phillips’s ambition and believed in it. Orbison wasn’t inspired by the goal, and only ever achieved one hit with the Sun label.

  The value fit matters, says Cialdini, because innovation is, in part, a process of change, and under that pressure we, as a species,behave differently, ‘When things change, we are hard-wired to play it safe.’ Managers should therefore adopt an approach that appears counter?intuitive — they should explain what stands to be lost if the company fails to seize a particular opportunity. Studies show that we invariably take more gambles when threatened with a loss than when offered a reward.

  Managing innovation is a delicate art. It’s easy for a company to be pulled in conflicting directions as the marketing, product development, and finance departments each get different feedback from different sets of people. And without a system which ensures collaborative exchanges within the company, it’s also easy for small ‘pockets of innovation’ to disappear. Innovation is a contact sport. You can’t brief people just by saying, ‘We’re going in this direction and I’m going to take you with me.’

  Cialdini believes that this ‘follow-the-leader syndrome is dangerous, not least because it encourages bosses to go it alone. ‘It’s been scientifically proven that three people will be better than one at solving problems, even if that one person is the smartest person in the field.’ To prove his point, Cialdini cites an interview with molecular biologist James Watson. Watson, together with Francis Crick, discovered the structure of DNA, the genetic information carrier of all living organisms. ‘When asked how they had cracked the code ahead of an array of highly accomplished rival investigators, he said something that stunned me. He said he and Crick had succeeded because they were aware that they weren’t the most intelligent of the scientists pursuing the answer. The smartest scientist was called Rosalind Franklin who, Watson said, “was so intelligent she rarely sought advice”.’


  Teamwork taps into one of the basic drivers of human behaviour. ‘The principle of social proof is so pervasive that we don’t even recognise it,’ says Cialdini. ‘If your project is being resisted, for example, by a group of veteran employees, ask another old-timer to speak up for it.’ Cialdini is not alone in advocating this strategy. Research shows that peer power, used horizontally not vertically, is much more powerful than any boss’s speech.

  Writing, visualising and prototyping can stimulate the flow of new ideas. Cialdini cites scores of research papers and historical events that prove that even something as simple as writing deepens every individual’s engagement in the project. It is, he says, the reason why all those competitions on breakfast cereal packets encouraged us to write in saying, in no more than 10 words: ‘I like Kellogg’s Com Flakes because… .’ The very act of writing makes us more likely to believe it.

  Authority doesn’t have to inhibit innovation but it often does. The wrong kind of leadership will lead to what Cialdini calls ‘captainitis, the regrettable tendency of team members to opt out of team responsibilities that are properly theirs’. He calls it captainitis because, he says, ‘crew members of multipilot aircraft exhibit a sometimes deadly passivity when the flight captain makes a clearly wrong-headed decision’. This behaviour is not, he says, unique to air travel, but can happen in any workplace where the leader is overbearing.

  At the other end of the scale is the 1980s Memphis design collective, a group of young designers for whom ‘the only rule was that there were no rules’. This environment encouraged a free interchange of ideas, which led to more creativity with form, function, colour and materials that revolutionised attitudes to furniture design.

  Many theorists believe the ideal boss should lead from behind, taking pride in collective accomplishment and giving credit where it is due. Cialdini says: ‘Leaders should encourage everyone to contribute and simultaneously assure all concerned that every recommendation is important to making the right decision and will be given full attention.’ The frustrating thing about innovation is that there are many approaches, but no magic formula. However, a manager who wants to create a truly innovative culture can make their job a lot easier by recognising these psychological realities.

  Questions 27-30

  Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.

  Write the correct letter in boxes 27-30 on your answer sheet.

  27 The example of the ‘million-dollar quartet’ underlines the writer’s point about

  A recognising talent.

  B working as a team.

  C having a shared objective.

  D being an effective leader.

  28 James Watson suggests that he and Francis Crick won the race to discover the DNA code because they

  A were conscious of their own limitations.


  B brought complementary skills to their partnership.

  C were determined to outperform their brighter rivals.

  D encouraged each other to realise their joint ambition.

  29 The writer mentions competitions on breakfast cereal packets as an example of how to

  A inspire creative thinking.

  B generate concise writing.

  C promote loyalty to a group.

  D strengthen commitment to an idea.

  30 In the last paragraph, the writer suggests that it is important for employees to

  A be aware of their company’s goals.

  B feel that their contributions are valued.

  C have respect for their co-workers’ achievements.

  D understand why certain management decisions are made.

  Questions 31-35

  Complete each sentence with the correct ending, A-G, below.

  Write the correct letter, A-G, in boxes 31-35 on your answer sheet

  31 Employees whose values match those of their employers are more likely to

  32 At times of change, people tend to

  33 If people are aware of what they might lose, they will often

  34 People working under a dominant boss are liable to

  35 Employees working in organisations with few rules are more likely to

  A take chances.

  B share their ideas.

  C become competitive.

  D get promotion.

  E avoid risk.

  F ignore their duties.

  G remain in their jobs.

  Questions 36-40

  Do the following statements agree with the claims of the writer in Reading Passage 3?

  In boxes 36-40 on your answer sheet, write

  YES if the statement agrees with the claims of the writer

  NO if the statement contradicts the claims of the writer

  NOT GIVEN if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

  36 The physical surroundings in which a person works play a key role in determining their creativity.

  37 Most people have the potential to be creative.

  38 Teams work best when their members are of equally matched intelligence.

  39 It is easier for smaller companies to be innovative.

  40 A manager’s approval of an idea is more persuasive than that of a colleague.


  Question 27


  难度及答案: 难度低;答案为C

  关键词: million-dollar quartet

  定位原文: 第3段第2句到后面的“Sun’s ‘million-dollar quartet’...”太阳的“百万美元四重唱组合”本来可以成为五重唱组合的。照片里没有的是Roy Orbison,一个比Lewis, Perkins或者Cash更加有天赋的歌手。Sam Phillips, 太阳工作室的拥有者,想要用融合了黑白音乐,乡村和蓝调音乐的结合体来革新流行乐。 Presley,Cash,Perkins和Lewis直觉上就理解了 Phillips的野心而且充满信心。 Orbison对于这一目标并不感冒,而且与太阳公司仅实现了一次合作。

  解题思路: 原文中的goal与C项里的objective是同义替换。从文中可以看出来,退出的 Orbison与组合里的其他成员,以及老板的创新观念并不相符。所以,有一个共同的目标非常重要。

  Question 28

  参考译文: James Watson 说他和Francis Crick能够率先发现DNA密码是因为他们____.


  关键词: DNA

  定位原文: 第6段倒数第2句“He said he and Crick…”他说他和Cricket之所以能够成功, 是因为他们知道在众多追寻答案的科学家之中,他们并不是最聪明的。

  解题思路: 根据DNA找到本段第4句话,往后看倒数第2句话提到了成功的原因,因为他们明白,他们不是最聪明的,这句话解释了答案里边的他们明白自己的局限。 原文中 aware 替换为 A 选项中的 conscious, weren’t the most intelligent 解释了他们有limitations。

  Question 29

  参考译文: 作者提到早餐谷物粥包装的竞争是想要证明如何_____.


  关键词: breakfast cereal packets

  定位原文: 第8段倒数第2句及最后一句“It is,he says... ”他说,这就是为什么所有的早餐谷物粥仅装竞争者都会鼓励大家写下不超过10字的话:“我喜欢Kellogg玉米片,因为…”这一书写行为会让我们更加愿意去相信这件事。

  解题思路: 定位不难,最后一句话the very act of writing就是指前面的书写这句话的行为,这一行为会使得我们更加愿意去相信它。原文中more likely to替换为选项D 中的 strengthen,难度在于 believe 与 commitment 的替换。Commitment 的意思除了承诺意外,还有信奉的意思。

  Question 30

  参考译文: 文中最后一段,作者说对于员工来说____很重要。


  关键词:last paragraph、employees

  定位原文:最后1段第2句话“Cialdini says... ” Cialdini说“领导们应该鼓励每个人去贡献(自己的想法)并且确保相关人员都意识到每一个建议对于制定正确的决策和(每个人的想法)被充分地考虑都是很重要的”。

  解题思路: 题目已经告诉了最后一段,所以定位不难。原文中主语用到的是leaders,说领导应该鼓励每个人, everyone替换了 employees, 所以员工应该怎么做, 我们应该encourage (鼓励)他们做什么。原文中说鼓励大家contribute (做贡献), 替换了答案中的contributions,原文中的同时要保证每一个人的意见都很important (重要), 还有 will be given full attention(给予充分关注),这两点都体现出了答案中的valued (被重视)。

  Question 31

  参考译文: 与老板的价值观相符的员工,更有可能___。



  定位原文:第2段第2句“Research shows...”研究表明,员工的价值和公司的价值之契合度在于员工做了什么贡献以及两年以后他们是不是仍然在这家公司。

  解题思路: 根据values找到第2段第2句,原文说,员工与老板的价值观是否一致,会对两方面有影响,一方面是员工会有什么贡献,另一方面是两年以后他们是否还在这家公司。所以第二点与答案继续保持工作相符。原文中fit替换了 match,they're still at the company替换了remain in their jobs。

  Question 32




  定位原文:第4段1句“The value fit matters…”价值观是否合拍很重要,Cialdini说,因为创新在一定程度上也是改变的过程,在这种压力下,我们作为一种物种,会有不同的表现,“事情有所改变的时候,我们很自然地就会选择安全的行动 ”。

  解题思路: 根据at times of change找到原文中when things change。原文提到,我们会 play it safe,与答案中的avoid risk是同义替换。


  Question 33




  定位原文:第4段最后一句“Studies show that…”研究表明,当面对损失而不是奖赏的时候,我们不可避免地会更加冒险。

  解题思路: 主要是替换,原文中 when threatened with a loss 替换了 are aware of what they might lose,原文中 take more gambles 替换了take chances。

  Question 34



  关键词:a dominant boss

  定位原文:第9段第2句及最后一句“The wrong kind of leadership…”这一错误的领导方式会导致Cialdini称之为“机长症候群,一种令人遗憾的趋势,团队成员会把本该属于自己的责任推卸给领导的一种趋势”……据他所言,这一行为并不单单在飞机上会出现,而是当领导太独断的时候,这会发生在任何工作场合下。

  解题思路: 这道题的难度在于词组不熟悉,opt out的意思是“退出”、“免除”、“避免”,替换了 ignore,responsibilities 替换了 duties。还有就是最后一句的 the leader is overbearing 替换了 a dominant boss。

  Question 35



  关键词:few rules


  解题思路: 第一句是定位点,原文中the only rule 和no rule 替换了few rules, 第2句是解题点,a free interchange of ideas 替换了share their ideas。

  Question 36


  难度及答案:难度低;答案为 NO

  关键词:physical surroundings、creativity

  定位原文:第1段第2句“There are…”然而,那些在一个奢侈的,设计成艺术中心以促进创新的地方工作的人,发现这个环境并不能让他们觉得自己有创造力。

  解题思路: 原文中说那些工作条件非常好的人,发现这个环境一点也不能让自己有创造性,所以与題目很明显矛盾。原文中的centres,environment替换了 physical surroundings, 原文中creative 替换了creativity。

  Question 37

  参考译文: 大多数人有创新的潜力

  难度及答案:难度低;答案为 YES

  关键词:most people、potential

  定位原文:第2段最后一句“Studies at…”在哈佛商业学院进行的研究表明,尽管一些人会比另外一些人更加有创造力,但是如果人们处于正确的环境,每一个人都会有创造力。

  解题思路: 原文中 almost every individuals 替换了 most people, can be替换了 potential。

  Question 38

  参考译文: 当智力相当的人组成一个团队的时候,团队工作情况最好。

  难度及答案:难度低;答案为 NOT GIVEN

  关键词:equally matched intelligence


  解题思路: 这道题是完全未提及。

  Question 39

  参考译文: 小的公司创新更容易。

  难度及答案:难度低;答案为 NOT GIVEN

  关键词:smaller companies


  解题思路: 这道题是完全未提及。

  Question 40

  参考译文: 管理者的批准比同事的更具有说服力。


  关键词:manager's approvals 、colleague

  定位原文:第7段最后一句 “Research shows...” 研究表明,同事的力量,同等级运用,而不是上下级运用的话,远比老板的任何言论更加有说服力。

  解题思路:这道题涉及比较多的替换,原文中peer power替换了 colleague, powerful替换了 persuasive,boss’s speech 替换了 manager’s approval。