Confusing Unison, Harmony, and High Creativity

Recent studies suggest that too much harmony or collaboration is bad, killing creativity and value-generation.  They find that too much time spent agreeing with everybody else and minimizing differences leads to lower creativity and innovation.  While they might be right, I suggest they are confusing interacting in unison with interacting in harmony.

Unison means one sound.  Monophony.  This is where everyone makes the sound, the same note.  All the same.

Harmony means an agreement of sounds.  Polyphony.  This is where everyone makes different sounds, with different notes, that combine in a specific way.

It seems to me that the studies are criticizing too much unison and too much submission.  Too much process focused on getting everybody to the lower common denominator, where they can find something that they all agree on, and then submitting to someone else’s will, in honor of the group’s health, over-processing everything.  Unison and submission lead to people shutting down their creativity, their insights into new, unique contributions they can make towards the health of the group, and the others, and themselves.

It seems to me that the studies are then suggesting that people need to find ways to efficiently bring out their best, unique contributions, together, in a way that creates new value for those participating and for those who are recipients of the efforts.  These are the definitions of harmonizing and collaborating.  Bringing out the best of each other’s unique contributions (what makes us each different), each other’s own note, in a highly efficient way that generates something new.  To do this, efficiently and effectively, requires listening to one’s own voice, to the other’s voice, and to the resulting harmonic for the whole, continuously improving all three.  Not doing so is a waste of time.  So maybe the recent studies mean to say (1) that people are mislabeling harmony and collaboration [they mean unison and submission] and (2) that too little harmony and collaboration is bad, killing creativity and value-generation.  Maybe.


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