Defining the creativity of an organisation


Creativity is an important aspect of business organization. This is particularly important as companies are facing continuous changes in the global economy. Change is a continuous phenomenon which affects organizations both internally and externally which in turn means that organizations need to make creative plans in an uncertain climate.

Scholars and such have suggested that creativity is one of the most important aspects for the long-term survival of organizations (e.g., Oldham & Cummings, 1996; Scott & Bruce, 1994), the cultural (DeFillippi et al, 2007) as well as in the artistic (Simonton, 1975) arenas. Creativity researcher Joyce Wycoff (1991) defines creativity as "new and useful". Creativity is the act of "seeing things that everyone around us sees while making connections that no one else has made." (p. 22).However, quite cynically, business analysis Scott Witt (1983) believes that new ideas are never original, that they involve the combining and revision of other people's ideas. He refers to the smartest people in business, as "Creative Copycats" because their ideas are an adaptation of other products, formulas or systems (i.e. Bill gates).

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It has been suggested that one way for organizations to become more creative is to take advantage of on their employees' ability to generate innovation. Katz (1964, p. 132) states: "an organization that depends solely upon its blueprints of prescribed behaviour is a very fragile social system". Work has become more, intangible, knowledge-based and less rigid. Many scholars and academics now sanction the opinion that individual creativity helps to attain organisational success (Van de Ven, 1986; Amabile, 1988; Smith, 2002; Unsworth and Parker, 2003). In order to realise a continuous flow of innovations, employees need to be willing and able to innovate as well as being in a cultural of supportive creativity (Zhou & Shalley, 2003). Individual creativity is central to achieving success in combination with well-known management ideals, such as continuous improvement schemes (Boer and Gieskes, 1998), & total quality management (McLoughlin and Harris, 1997; Ehigie and Akpan, 2004).

Some creative behaviour theorists describe the innovation process as being comprised of two main phases: initiation and implementation (Zaltman et al., 1973; Axtell et al., 2000). The division between the two phases is believed to be the point at which the idea is first adopted; i.e. the point at which the decision to implement the innovation is made. The first stage ends with the production of an idea, while the second stage ends as soon as the idea is implemented (King and Anderson, 2002). This theory has its critics and has been seen to be too simplistic. In contrast, Amabile's (1983, 1996) componential theory of creativity proposes that an individual's level of creativity is dependent on a combination of factors such as; domain relevant skills (skills which are specifically needed for a particular job), intrinsic motivation (personal interest in their work) and creative relevant processes (actions that allow the individual to engage in creative thinking).

In the current climate, there is increasing competition for organisational resources to achieve competitive advantage. High job demands lead to exhaustion, decreased learning (Parker & Sprigg, 1999) and low job satisfaction (Warr, 1999). This adds stress to the work-force which can have negative effect on the creative work-force. Ganster (2001) suggests that demanding work can result in burn-out and initiate low-functioning workers (Demerouti, 2001). In order to compensate this, managers could implement the job demands resource model (karasek, 1979), which suggests that the consequences of demanding work conditions can be offset by available resources (Demerouti et al, 2001), including job control (Ganster et al, 2001), Job efficacy (Schaubroeck & Merritt, 1997) or taking notice and managing personality characteristics (Parker & Sprigg, 1999). Managers could also try to initiate an organisational climate for innovation (King et al, 2008) which has received little research attention (Amabile et al, 1996). This would include elements such as encouragement of creativity , autonomy and appropriate resources (Amabile, 1988). West (2002) suugests that this climate for innovation encourages creativity and idea generation which is triggered by work problems and/or challenges. In other words the effort it takes to implement creative ideas may be motivated by external demands.

Other recent evidence from Zhou & Shalley (2003) which may be of help to managers is their monitoring behaviour. One significant contextual factor that may have an impact on creativity is the presence of creative role models. This phenomenon is called "observational learning" or "modelling". This follows on from the idea that intrinsic motivation (I.M) is a key ingredient for creativity. I.M. people tend to be curios,learning orientated, cognitively flexible, be willing to take risks and to be persistent when faced with obstacles and challenges (Boggiano et al, 1982). Therefore both managers and employees need to be I.M to begin to exhibit creativity. Managers behaviours that are controlling inhibit creativity while those that are informational facilitate I.M. and creativity.

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Social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1977, 1986) suggests that observing co-workers displaying creativity at work may lead to an employee to engage in creative activities as well. When supervisors provide development feedback and creative co-workers are present, employees are likely to properly acquire and use creatively relevant skills and strategies to search for ways of doing things which increases the chances of exhibiting high levels of creativity

Mood is said to big the biggest predictor of creativity and generally positive mood leads to greater creativity (Hirt et al, 2008). Certain theories have looked at what is the best way to enhance creativity. For example the 'mood-congruent retrieval' model contends that positive affect serves as a retrieval cue for positive material in memory (Islen et al, 1978). Cognitive tuning model contends that from evolution, moods convey important information to the organism about the nature of the current environment (Schwartz, 1990). The 'mood as input' model suggests that mood provides people with information (Clore & Schwartz, 1994). However, according to this model, mood does not have a universal effect on information processing; instead the significance and consequences of the information provided by one's current mood state depends on the context. Hedonic contingency theory (HCT) (Wegener & Petty, 1994, 1996) purports that happy individuals are interested in sustaining their positive mood state, while sad individuals are interested in mood repair. This is because there are potentially more mood sabotaging tasks for individuals in happy moods and therefore must be even more vigilant about the hedonic qualities of tasks they contemplate performing than sad individuals. HCT would argue that the enhanced cognitively flexible happy individuals were significantly more likely to weigh potential for creativity in their task choices (Hirt et al, 2008).

Defillippi and his colleagues (2007) looked at creativity in the cultural industry such as the catering, music and artistic industries. He found that creativity occurs naturally in the cloths, haute cuisine, video games and arts & crafts industries and saw that factors influencing creativity in work included, group interaction, incentive structures and failure tolerant cultures. These creative industries demonstrate the flexibility and ability of projects to generate new knowledge; however they also reveal new paradoxes and tensions of project organisations. There is a fine balance between the 'soft architecture' (generation of new ideas) and 'hard architecture' (geared towards making money out of these ideas). For example the open - source community has shifted the locus of creativity and innovation from the closed organisation to practicing professional communities, from the soft to the hard. When it comes to management there are two key foci:

Managing creative personnel and,

Managing creative processes

Managers in the music industry have had to disentangle themselves from various paradoxes. The distance paradox - where they have to couple or decouple routine work, the distance paradox - of crafting or standardising policies and the globalisation paradox where they have to reconcile or separate local and global arenas of activity.

There is also research that suggests a link between knowledge dissemination and idea generation. Mumford et al. (2002) in his review on leadership and creativity, suggests that part of the idea-generating ability of employees depends on their awareness of the needs, trends, and problems within their professional and business environment. This sort of knowledge provides the individual with a source for new ideas. In line with this, in a study of 19 innovative banking projects, Harborne and Johne (2003) found that leaders of successful projects were able to change the nature of relationships between employees through informal communication. Anomalies or things that do not fit expected patterns often serve as the basis for new ideas. Such discrepancies are best captured when information is widely available

Research has identified participation in decision-making as a strong determinant of innovative behaviour. Recent research also confirms the proposed link between a consulting leadership style and both idea generation and application behaviour. Amabile et al. (2004) compared teams of knowledge workers, using their daily reports about critical incidents in the behaviour of their leaders. The two R&D teams involved differed dramatically in idea generation, innovative output, and their perception of leader support for innovation. The leader of the successful team involved subordinates in decision making during weekly meetings, during which he and the team worked together to set their priorities and goals. In contrast, the leader of the unsuccessful team never asked his workers' for input for decision making. This lack of consultation undermined subordinates' motivation and also deprived the project of fresh ideas that could have improved performance. Also, a case study by Ruigrok et al. (2000) suggested a positive relationship between innovativeness and a "shared leadership" style characterized by frequent consultation. Shared leadership enhanced people's involvement and motivation to generate ideas and to strive for successful implementation.

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There is some limited, but encouraging empirical support for the notion that leadership behaviors influence organisational innovation processes. For example, transformational leadership behaviors have been found to have strong positive effects on the levels of innovation, risk taking, and creativity within business units (Howell and Avolio, 1993). Similarly, leadership behaviors like serving as a good work model (i.e., exercising charismatic influence), being open to new ideas (i.e., intellectual stimulation), or providing constructive feedback and valuing individual contributions (i.e., contingent reward) have also been reported to positively affect subordinate perceptions of leader support, which in turn stimulates creativity and innovativeness (Amabile, 1997). Leaders' behaviors and relationships with followers have also been found to be associated with enhanced creativity (Tierney et al., 1999). West et al. (2003) have concluded that without an identifiable leader organisational innovation suffers.

Most studies on individual innovation merge the construct of vision with other dimensions of transformational leadership. There are, however, studies that demonstrated an empirical connection between providing vision and measures of idea generation and application behaviour. Sosik et al. (1998) showed that providing a vision results in enhanced creativity on a computer-based brainstorming task. Hounsell (1992) demonstrated that the use of a vision results in successful research and development outcomes.

In general, leaders have a powerful source of influence on employees' work behaviours (Yukl, 2002). Innovative behaviour is no exception. Basadur (2004, p. 103), for instance, notes that in future business the most effective leaders:

. . . will help individuals (. . .) to coordinate and integrate their differing styles through a process of applied creativity that includes continuously discovering and defining new problems, solving those problems and implementing the new solutions.

Innovative behaviour is closely related to employee creativity. The demarcation between the two is blurred, as some researchers have proposed models of creativity that also pay attention to the implementation of creative ideas. For example, Basadur (2004) distinguishes between problem finding, problem conceptualisation, problem solving, and solution implementation. In line with this, in a review of creativity research, Mumford (2003) recommends that future work should investigate "late cycle" skills, i.e. the implementation of creative ideas. He recognizes that real-world performance - the expression, shaping and execution of ideas - represents "another important component of creative work" (p. 116), and considers the investigation of implementing ideas to be an important emerging issue. Other authors have identified and discussed differences between innovative behaviour and creativity. Unlike creativity, innovative behaviour is intended to produce some kind of benefit. Innovative behaviour has a clearer applied component since it is expected to result in innovative output. However, it cannot be said that it comprises application only as innovative behaviours encompass employees'

Jaussi and Dionne (2003) hypothesized that leaders who act creatively make themselves available for creative emulation, which in turn produces more creativity in followers. Acting as a model for creativity was expected to increase the chance that followers would practice idea generation themselves. In an experiment using student participants, Jaussi and Dionne did indeed find a positive and direct impact of role-modelling on creativity. Shalley and Perry-Smith (2001) found that individuals who were provided with a creative work model were able to learn what was considered creative from this model and, in turn, exhibited more creative behaviour. Evidence of the link between role-modelling and application behaviour is scarce. Tierney et al. (1999) found that direct assessments of leaders' creative skills correlated positively (in the 1930s) with output-based measures of individual innovation, such as invention disclosures

In conclusion Creativity is not something that comes out of the blue. It is something that needs to be cultivated, stimulated and, most importantly, it requires a dramatic change of culture. More over creativity goes hand in hand with dramatic changes in the way people relate to each other, in thinking, attitude, in priorities, in motivation, in ways of dealing with things. Creating creativity means creating entirely new cultures. The challenge remains how to integrate creative output with strategic objectives and the realities of day-to-day business. Contributors to the volume of knowledge at an organization share insights on building these connections and nurturing a creative organizational culture. Individual and organizational creativity has been illustrated organizational learning, creation of feedback loops and experimentation through prototype deployment. It was shown that users should be not only involved in, but an integral part of, design and development.