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Abstract

Past success often causes groups to think narrowly around strategies that have worked in the past, even when environmental change has rendered these strategies ineffective. From a psychological perspective, this research seems to indicate that past success may give rise to convergent thinking in groups. Why might successful groups be prone to convergent thinking? I argue that the relationship between past success and convergent thinking may depend on the attributions that groups generate to explain their shared success. In this paper, I focus on two distinct attributions at the group level: Individual-focused attributions that reflect the idiosyncratic characteristics of individual group members and group-focused attributions that reflect the emergent properties of the group as a whole. I found that group-focused attributions for past success cause groups to generate fewer ideas that are, on average, more convergent. In contrast, individual-focused attributions cause groups to generate more ideas that are on average more divergent. These findings suggest that the experience of success may actually stimulate divergent thinking depending on how a group chooses to explain it. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.