Academic journal article Manager

Leadership and Creativity

Academic journal article Manager

Leadership and Creativity

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Much of the empirical research has defined creativity as an outcome, focusing on the production of new and useful ideas concerning products, services, processes and procedures (Amabile, 1996; Ford, 1996; Oldham and Cummings, 1996; Shalley, 1991; Zhou, 1998). Using this definition, research has examined creative solutions to business problems, creative business strategies and creative changes in job processes (Ford and Gioia, 2000; West and Anderson, 1996). Creative outcomes can range from minor adaptations in workflow or products to major breakthroughs and the development of new products and processes (Mumford and Gustafson, 1988). Prior researchers have suggested that some level of creativity is required in almost any job (Shalley, Gilson and Blum, 2000; Unsworth, 2001). Therefore, understanding that there is a spectrum of what would be considered a creative outcome is crucial for those in a position to lead and evaluate creativity. Sometimes, organizations may desire more incremental creative solutions while at other times may be desirable to have employees achieve more monumental breakthroughs. Inherently, the level of creativity required may be dependent on the job in question. For example, when examining the tasks performed by R&D professionals, major breakthroughs may be desirable and necessary. In contrast, for the jobs of assembly line workers, an incremental change in how the work is done may be a desirable creative outcome.

It is also important to clearly differentiate creativity from innovation. While the constructs of creativity and innovation are closely related, they are different. Specifically, creativity involves producing novel and useful products, processes or services (Woodman, Sawyer and Griffin, 1993; Shalley, 1995). Creativity differs from innovation in that innovation refers to the implementation of ideas at the individual, group or organizational level (Amabile, 1996; Mumford and Gustafson, 1998). Creativity is important in and of itself and can be conceptualized as a necessary firs step or precondition required for innovation (Scott, 1995). And yet, it would not be correct to neglect intuition as a stimulating factor of innovation (Nita, Simirad, 2009). In this article, we are concerned solely with creativity and the relationship among leadership, context and creativity.

Because creativity is considered by many to be historically, culturally and socially bound (Amabile, 1996), it is important to have agreement from those who are considered knowledgeable in the field concerning the level of creativity. For example, an industrial designer who may produce creative outputs in his own field is not necessarily in a position to judge the creativity incorporated in a new agricultural product. Therefore, with regards to creative outcomes, managers may play a key role in that they are often the individuals best suited to make the determination of whether an employee's outcome should be regarded as creative.

At any given time, a single manager may be overseeing employees who are working toward creative outcomes. As such, a key component necessary for creativity is the context within which creativity takes place because creative outcomes cannot and do not occur in a vacuum. Mumford et al (2002) discussed creative work as being contextualized (p. 709) in that the success of creativity depends on the capabilities, pressures, resources and socio-technical system in which employees find themselves (Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). In order for creativity to occur, leadership needs to play an active role in fostering, encouraging and supporting creativity. Hence, the role of leaders is to ensure that the structure of the work environment, the climate, the culture and the human resource practices (such as rewards, resources, goals and expected evaluations) are such that creative outcomes can and do occur (Shalley et al, 2000; Mumford, 2000; Mumford et al, 2002, Oldham and Cummings, 1996). …

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