Academic journal article e-Journal of Business Education and Scholarship Teaching

Fostering Team Creativity in Higher Education Settings

Academic journal article e-Journal of Business Education and Scholarship Teaching

Fostering Team Creativity in Higher Education Settings

Article excerpt


This paper examines how team creativity can be developed using the Synectics creative problem-solving approach by taking stickiness into account. Stickiness represents the difficulty learners experience in internalising knowledge and skills to perform a task productively. Using a quasi-experimental design learners' perceived change in team creativity was assessed over three months. The findings indicate that team creativity is enhanced using the Synectics approach, overcoming many stickiness challenges. Significant improvements were observed for team creative skills immediately after the workshops and remained three months later. The study's findings add to knowledge of how creativity can be enhanced in teams overcoming inhibitors and suggesting that teams benefit from developing their team creative skills which favour problem-solving, novel ideas and innovation. Synectics, as a team creative problem-solving approach, can be used successfully to stimulate creativity in higher education contexts. Implications for theory and management educators are discussed.

Keywords: Team Creativity; Creative skills; Stickiness; Skills Development.


Management educators have been criticised for inadequately preparing graduates for a rapidly changing future world of work, where there is a growing need for adaptable, creative workers who have the ability to productively integrate in a changing labour market of contract, part-time and self-employment opportunities (Autor, 2010; Bridgstock, 2009). In a globally-connected world, surrounded by smart machines and systems, novel and adaptive thinking is a critical future skill. However Baker and Baker (2012) warn that too many business schools do not regard it as their responsibility to develop novel thinking skills in graduates. They urge management educators to examine their current classroom practice, curriculum and learning goals to determine whether these settings inspire creativity.

Novel and adaptive thinking requires creativity, as it involves proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based (Davies, Fidler and Gorbis, 2011:9). As such creativity is a crucial graduate attribute relevant for problem-solving, generating novel solutions, innovation (Baker and Baker, 2012) and leading teams (Adler, 2006). Well-known creativity scholar Amabile (1996) views creativity is a multi-dimensional concept and an innate ability that everyone is born with, yet can be enhanced through educational interventions. While individual creativity provides the basis for team and enterprise innovation (Hirst et al., 2009); developing creativity in teams can be challenging (Walton, 2003). Too often business education tends to overemphasise individual linear, rational skills embedded in the scientific paradigm (Chia, 1996; Hoover et al., 2010) at the expense of intuition and team creative skills (Bennis and O'Toole, 2005; Ghoshal, 2005).

Public universities' funding are partially contingent upon delivering 'work ready' graduates, particularly in the UK, Canada and Australia (Brigstock, 2009). As such management educators tend to focus on career based outcomes, deliver content-dominant curricula, focusing on grades as performance outcomes (Baker and Baker, 2012). While team work and collaboration is seen as important graduate attributes, only a few courses address this, due to the time-consuming nature and student resistance (Curtis and McKenzie, 2002). Therefore enhancing team creativity through an educational intervention is challenging. Team creativity requires a supportive climate that supports risk-taking and nurtures new ideas and knowledge that emerge from intricate team processes (Blackman and Benson, 2010). Furthermore developing team creativity requires a maturation process and reinforcement over time. Earlier research predominantly focuses on individual creativity and its antecedents (Mathisen and Bronnick, 2009; Robbins and Kegley, 2010), while only a limited number of studies focus on team creativity (Gilson and Shalley, 2004; Taggar, 2002; Hirst et al. …

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