For a long time, people have been interested in creativity, especially “creative geniuses” such as Mozart, Edison, or van Gogh. We´ve tried to find out what is “special” about these persons: was there something extraordinary about their intellect, their personality, even their brains?
While these are very interesting questions, there is another angle on creativity that may be somewhat more relevant to our everyday lives. Creativity and, in turn, innovation, are key facets of enduring success for most organizations on this planet. Most of this creative output will be “everyday creativity”, not some big mind-blowing leap into another dimension: small, incremental changes that lead to a competitive advantage at least for a while. So while it is surely helpful to ask “How can I get exceptionally creative people on board?” – an even more important question could be:
How can we create organizational cultures that foster creativity in each and every person?
As noted in the beginning, research on this special topic is more scarce than then the investigation of individual creativity – but it has been done. Researcher Laird D. McLean has published an article that reviews studies on the connection of organizational culture and creativity, roughly from the 1960s to 2000, incorporating findings from experts such as Harvard´s Theresa M. Amabile and Rosabeth M. Kanter.
Here are the key factors that separate highly creative organizations from the rest:
- Organic design: influence is based on expertise instead of position, decision-making authority is decentralized.
- Organizational encouragement: risk-taking is valued and evaluated supportively; collaborative idea flow and participative decision-making is fostered.
- Supervisory encouragement: managers clarify team goals and support team’s creative work, support open interaction.
- Work group encouragement: organization actively fosters/leverages diversity, integrating creative personalities into “organizational mainstream”.
- Freedom and autonomy: organization grants sovereignty to employees with regard to determining the means by which to achieve goals.
- Resources: finding the „golden mean“ with regard to time and money: scarcity produces fear, distrust, and burnout, excess decreases creative performance.
No rocket science, huh…? If you are a manager, now go out and do that… 🙂
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