How does Apple do it?

How does Apple do it?
by Connie Coutain |

Assistant Professor of Psychology Katerina Bezrukova has found that work-related conflicts can help solidify a climate of creativity.

Many people marvel at how Steve Jobs turned Apple into one the world’s favorite brands. They wonder how the company achieved such a clearly articulated vision and how it continues to embody dramatic creativity and innovation. One psychology professor has an unexpected answer: work-related conflicts.

Katerina Bezrukova, an assistant professor of psychology at Santa Clara University, has been studying organizational practices and creativity-center climate for nine years. She discovered that the more diverse people are within a company, the more conflicts arise.

Bezrukova examined what she calls faultlines, which form when groups of people with different demographic characteristics such as age, gender, and race come into alignment and divide groups into relatively homogeneous subgroups. For instance, a faultline exists when all the men in a team are German and all the women are from India.

“Prior research suggests that such subgroups would be harmful for group creativity, but these faultlines actually create sparks that ignite in diverse groups and help solidify a climate of creativity,” Bezrukova says.

She found that while groups with faultines tend to be more polarized, such polarization changes the atmosphere within the team from wanting to be creative to actually becoming creative. Team members from various backgrounds, education, and experience ultimately clash and face conflicts. When faced with work-related conflicts, they become more invested in fixing the conflicts.

“While they may argue more, they’re also bringing more information to the table such as solutions and that results in creativity,” Bezrukova says.

Work-related conflicts are those that pertain to objectives, tasks, and processes such as how something should be handled or done and who should be responsible for the task. Bezrukova says work-related conflicts redirect people’s energy toward creating new ideas, thus breathing new life into an organization.

An earlier version of this article appeared in the SCU News & Views blog. Read more from the blog here.

 

Winter 2014

Table of contents

Features

Rise up, my love

There are the sanctuaries built for worship—and that carry beauty and grace for all to see. Then there are the improvised places of faith, perhaps more subtle in how they speak to the wonder worked there.

The chaplain is in the House

With the way things have gone recently in Congress, looking to the heavens for some help and guidance might seem like a very good idea. In fact, that’s what Pat Conroy, S.J., M.Div. ’83 is there to do.

Welcome to Citizenville

Who published the one book on government in 2013 that conservative firebrand Newt Gingrich told all true believers that they should read? Well, the author is now lieutenant governor of California. Before that, he was mayor of San Francisco. That’s right: It’s Gavin Newsom ’89.

Mission Matters

Goooaal!

Women’s soccer wins the West Coast Conference championship.

Patent trolls, beware

The White House has brought on SCU’s Colleen Chien, a leading expert in patent law, as senior advisor.

A sight of innocence

George Souliotes went to prison for three life sentences after he was convicted of arson and murder. Twenty years later, he’s out—after the Northern California Innocence Project proved he didn’t do it.