By Judith H. Heerwagen
Research on organizational creativity has increased rapidly in the last decade. Not only is creativity of interest to scientific researchers, it has become a compelling topic in the popular media, with recent articles in Psychology Today (Gryskiewicz 2000), Fast Company (Dahl 2000), and in business-oriented publications such as the Harvard BusinessReview (Hargadon and Sutton 2000). Why this intense interest, and why now? Part of the answer comes from the nature of science and business today, especially in competitive fields where the pressure for innovation and maintaining a competitive edge has become more intense. Creativity provides the raw intellectual materials – ideas, concepts, insights, and discovery – that eventually become newtheories, approaches, tools, products, and services that underlie innovation. Innovation is the adoption and social transmission of creative discovery.
What is Creativity?
Although creativity and innovation are closely intertwined in the public eye, they have often been studied in isolation by researchers using different methodologies and models. Creativity has been the province of psychology,with its emphasis on individuals and small groups, while innovation has been the focus of sociologists, economists, and others who take a larger, systems perspective. This separation is unfortunate, because creativity (producing something for the first time) represents “a dramatic aspect of organizational change that may provide a key to understanding change phenomena and, ultimately,organizational effectiveness and survival” (Woodman et al. 1993). Recent attempts to integrate the psychological and sociological perspectives include work by Ford (1996, 2000), Cummings and Oldham (1997), and Drazin, Glynn and Kazanjian (1999). Creativity is generally defined as useful novelty – not novelty for its own sake, but novelty that can be applied and add value to an organization’s products andservices (Oldham and Cummings 1996). Creativity includes the generation of ideas, alternatives, and possibilities (Smith 1998). Creativity research has a long history in psychology, focusing on individual differences in personality, cognitive abilities, and problem-solving styles. However, recent theoretical and empirical work looks at creativity as something the brain does naturally. That is,creativity is an adaptive feature of normal cognitive functioning that evolved to aid problem solving under conditions of uncertainty. Under such circumstances, novel approaches and invention are highly advantageous (Simonton 2000; Findlay and Lumsden 1988). This perspective asserts that all human beings have the potential for creativity because we share common neural processes; however, whether thecreativity is expressed or suppressed depends on the socio-cultural context, personality differences, and specific personal experiences (such as knowledge and skills). Within work settings, it is also apparent that organizational policies and practices as well as managerial behaviors influence creativity among workers. By defining creativity as useful novelty, psychologists have clearly placed theemphasis on creativity as an outcome. Others, however, are beginning to look at creativity as a process that
Related chapters include: Change Management, Knowledge Management; Competencies; Organizational Culture; Innovation.
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ebbs and flows over time in response to problems that arise unpredictably (Drazin et al. 1999). In this view, creativity isintricately connected to sense-making, problem finding, and interpretation of events and situations. Although traditional approaches recognize the importance of social processes in creativity, they view social interactions as important for the generation and discussion of ideas, not for sense-making and interpretation. However, as Drazin and colleagues argue, organizational problems that...