Want to improve the quality of ideas produced at your annual staff retreat? Try this: At the start of your meeting, go around and ask everyone to tell an embarrassing story about themselves. It doesn’t have to be life-changing or even work-related. It could be the time they went up on stage to receive a school prize with their fly undone or their neighbors spied them dancing to “Ice Ice Baby” in front of the TV. According to Leigh Thompson at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, such sharing seems to reduce inhibitions, which makes it more likely new and novel ideas will flow. It could also be that by increasing your vulnerability, you become more likable and thus everyone else in the room becomes more amenable to supporting or building on your suggestions or prompts.
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