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Creative Collaboration and the Self-Concept: A Study of Toy Designers


Address for reprints: Kimberly D. Elsbach, Graduate School of Management, University of California–Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA (


In this paper, we explored how collaborative behaviours were related to the self-concepts of creative workers. Our findings, derived from a qualitative study of corporate toy designers, showed that the personal (vs. social) identities of toy designers were most strongly related to collaborative behaviours. Further, collaborative behaviours defined as idea giving were most congruent with all toy designers' personal identities, while collaborative behaviours defined as idea taking were most incongruent with those identities. Finally, specific collaborative behaviours related to specific types of personal identities (e.g. the collaborative behaviour of ‘incorporating the ideas of others’ was especially incongruent with ‘artistic’ personal identities). Together, these results suggest that promoting collaboration among creative workers may require attention to not only idea-giving behaviours and social identities (as suggested by most extant theories), but also to idea-taking behaviours and personal identities. We discuss the implications of these findings for theories of creative collaboration and identity in organizations.