A little Creativity goes a long Way : An examination of teams’ engagement in creative process

Gilson, L. & C. Shalley. 2004. “A little Creativity goes a long Way : An examination of teams’ engagement in creative process”. Journal of Management 30(4) 453-470

Creative Processes

Recently, this outcome based definition has been scrutinized by theorists who argue that it does not account for the drivers behind creativity, such as the degree of creativity required by the problem or the importance of engaging in a creative activity itself.

Creativity as a process is concerned with the journey toward possibly producing creative outcomes or improving overall performance through the “engagement in creative acts, regardless of whether the resultant outcomes are novel, useful or creative”.

Engagement in creative processes involves team members behaviorally, cognitively, and emotionally attempting new things or ways of going about their work.

Creative processes
Important in and of themselves, as they can be conceptualized as necessary first steps or pre-conditions for creative outcomes, improved performance, and as a required input for eventual innovation.

Innovation differs from creativity because a primary component of innovation is its implementation effectiveness.


Antecedents to Creative Processes

It highlights the critical role that group characteristics and composition may have on group creative processes and subsequent outcomes.

Cohen and Bailey (1997) in their review of team research presented a framework that incorporated task design features, attitudes toward team activities, and team characteristics as drivers of group processes, and ultimately team effectiveness.

Task design

While there are many facets of task design, we focus on two relevant ones for this study :

Job required creativity

Team members would be more likely to try novel approaches to their work when they are given a reason to do so through instructions, requirements, or the setting of actual goals for creativity.

Hypothesis 1: The more team members believe that their job requires creativity, the more frequently the team will engage in creative processes.

Task interdependence

Increases the motivational aspects of work itself in that team members are encouraged to communicate, exchange resources, and ultimately depend on one another to complete their work.

Hypothesis 2: The more team members believe that their work requires task interdependence, the more frequently the team will engage in creative processes.

Attitudes toward team activies

Team members’ shared understanding and beliefs can subsequently impact team processes.

There are fluid environmental attributes that can positively influence engagement in team processes.

Team members have shared goals

A shared vision implies agreement on priorities and desired outcomes.

When team members hold similar goals they communicate more effectively, access important information more readily, and consider more alternatives in making a decision, all of which should stimulate the creative process.

Hypothesis 3: The more team members report that their team has a high level of shared goals, the more frequently the team will engage in creative processes.

Team members can actively participate in problem solving

Found to significantly enhance group effectiveness by increasing members’ sense of responsibility, ownership of their work, along with overall task comprehension.

May positively affect the quality of decisions by increasing the input of decision relevant information and by having decisions made at a level closer to the problems at hand.

Hypothesis 4: The more team members report that the team actively participates in problem solving, the more frequently the team will engage in creative processes.

Their team has a climate supportive of creative efforts

Found to strongly influence member behavior and subsequent team outcomes.

When individuals work in an environment that they perceive as interpersonally non-threatening and where there is tolerance of, or even encouragement of taking risks and trying new approaches, higher levels of psychological safety and engagement in creative processes should ensue.

Hypothesis 5: The more team members report that their team climate is supportive of creativity, the more frequently the team will engage in creative processes.

Team characteristics and interaction

Immersion in a domain over time leads to a level of familiarity required to perform creatively, however task familiaritycan lead to habitual performance.

Employees need to have enough knowledge about their task and organization to be able to contribute creative ideas, but high levels of tenure also may lead to the tendency to adhere to strict routines rather than seeking out new, alternative ways of performing.

Hypothesis 6: Teams with moderate amounts of organizational tenure will more frequently engage in creative processes.

The communication of ideas and information, along with coming into contact with others should bepositively associated with creative processes.

The creative process can be thought of as both an individual and a group level process:

Individuals conceptualize an idea and then actively choose whether or not to share it with their team. Individuals who feel more comfortable with other team members should be more likely to share their ideas, discuss their merits, and possibly build upon them.

Thus, the more team members socialize, the more comfortable they presumably would be with each other, and this increased interaction and comfort should result in more ideas being shared and a greater likelihood of experimentation with unique approaches to work.

Hypothesis 7: The more team members socialize with each other, the more frequently they will engage in creative processes.

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