Got a Business Idea? Good, Now Get Out of the Way

While good ideas often are the result of a group effort, new research shows having strong ties to a business idea can make that necessary collaboration problematic.

The study from Washington University in St. Louis found that when a person comes up with a set of ideas and presents it to a colleague for feedback, that person will accept suggestions that build upon their ideas, but will also reject suggestions that they believe detract from them.

"When you feel an idea is yours, you are very selective about adopting others' suggestions for change," said Markus Baer,an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Olin Business School at Washington University. "While you may not mind others adding to your idea, when they take things away from it, you get very upset."

Baer said if people feel a strong sense of ownership of a particular idea, it can inhibit their ability to work together and affect the feedback they are willing to consider.

"Both additive and subtractive ideas can be helpful, but people with strong ownership have a hard time letting go," he said. "They really fight for their ideas."

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The research cautions leaders to guard against the negative consequences that come with idea ownership.

"Rather than assuming that experiencing ownership will always have beneficial effects, our results solidify the perspective that ownership seems to be a double-edged sword with very different consequences, depending upon whether change results in an extension or reduction of one’s psychological possessions," Baer wrote in the study.

The study, "Blind in One Eye: How Psychological Ownership of Ideas Affects the Types of Suggestions People Adopt," was co-authored by Graham Brown, from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, and appears in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

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