Collaborative Innovation: What Turns It Off And What Turns It On

Collaborative Innovation: What Turns It Off And What Turns It On

Robert Sapolsky describes in his book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers (2004), that we have evolved to deal with the bear that jumps out from behind a rock, but not the 30-year mortgage. Aronson and Steele (1995) show that chronic threat can be experienced in the pervasive social attitudes that they describe as stereotype threat. Their research investigated African Americans and intellectual test performance. It was found that when asked to simply complete a questionnaire the participants performed at expected standards. When the test was described as an I.Q test and their performance would be measured and would affect their end of year scores, the African American group’s performance was 6% lower. There was a negative impact on performance that was attributed to the pervasive negative social opinions about that group’s intelligence.

These results can be extrapolated to other minorities or disadvantaged sectors of society that are negatively criticised or oppressed by dominant social attitudes. The impact of externalised social evaluation systems has also been described as like living in a winner/loser world (Hill, 2006) where winning and losing is determined by external standards created by the dominant social group. This generates a low level, chronic aggravation of the sympathetic nervous system and a subsequent dampening of the social engagement system.

This is an avenue for future research as a likely contributor to the inhibition of natural collaboration. How much chronic threat exists in a workplace where pressures and demands are externally determined? Pressures such as KPI’s that are more based on economic constraints than on innovation, development and personal capacity. Equally, how has the competitive tone of the workplace led to people working in isolation to either reap the offered rewards or avoid scrutiny? These questions have anecdotal support, but further research is required.


I suggest we have underestimated the degree to which these chronic, background stresses and threats create an environment and events that are not only stressful, but also traumatic. Trauma is when dangerous, threatening or violent experiences are unresolved and remain within the person as a post-traumatic stress. Chronic trauma is equally likely to also produce an unresolved sense of safety in response to a low level of persistent failure to resolve daily experiences. Traumatic experiences can cause a “stuckness” in development that can manifest as impairment in empathy, sensorimotor development, impulse control, memory and self-esteem (Cook, et al., 2005).


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About the Author

Richard HillRichard Hill, MA, MEd, MBMSc, is a practicing psychotherapist/counsellor, author, educator, and professional supervisor. He is acknowledged internationally as an expert in human dynamics, communications, the brain and the mind. He speaks on the topicss of neuroscience, psychosocial genomics, and the impact of curiosity on brain, behavior and well being. His recent book is with Ernest Rossi, PhD, The Practitioner’s Guide to Mirroring Hands, which describes a Client-Responsive Approach to therapy. He is Past-President of the Global Association of Interpersonal Neurobiology Studies (GAINS); Patron of the Australian Society of Clinical Hypnotherapists; and Managing Editor of The Science of Psychotherapy monthly magazine. He holds Masters degrees in Arts; Education; and Mind and Brain Sciences. His other books include, Choose Hope and How the ‘real world’ Is Driving Us Crazy!

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