Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Roles of Creative Process Engagement and Leader-Member Exchange in Critical Thinking and Employee Creativity

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Roles of Creative Process Engagement and Leader-Member Exchange in Critical Thinking and Employee Creativity

Article excerpt

Creativity is considered as the generation of novelty and potentially useful ideas for organizational products, services, practices, or procedures (Oldham & Cummings, 1996; Shalley & Gilson, 2004; Zhang & Bartol, 2010). Many researchers have examined its antecedents, focusing on individual and contextual factors as well as their interactions (Amabile, 1996; George & Zhou, 2002; Gong, Huang, & Farh, 2009; Hirst, Van Knippenberg, Zhou, Quintane, & Zhu, 2015; Scott & Bruce, 1994; Shalley & Gilson, 2004; Shalley, Gilson, & Blum, 2000). However, knowledge about the role of thinking style in the creative process remains limited.

Thinking style has long been recognized as an important antecedent factor for individual creativity (Guilford, 1959, 1967). In Guilford's (1959, see also Guilford, 1967) three dimensions of intellect theory, divergent thinking, which is defined by fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration, is viewed as the core of creativity, and represents a kind of illogical thinking that emphasizes imagination, intuition, and inspiration (Brophy, 1998). In divergent thinking, ideas are generated in a random, spontaneous, and free-flowing way that is very important for artistic creation (Brophy, 1998). However, individuals may need other kinds of thinking styles for the purpose of solving problems at work (Brophy, 1998; Reiter-Palmon & Illies, 2004). A higher level of reasoning and comprehension is fostered by critical thinking (Weinstein, 1995), which provides ways to probe questions through expanding the horizons of possible solutions, or ways to challenge presuppositions. Therefore, we believe that critical thinking will also play a key role in individual creativity.

Critical thinking is a method of reflection that can affect individual creativity (Dewey, 1933; Ennis, 1989). King and Kitchener (1994, 2004) proposed a reflective judgment model (RJM) to explain this effect, according to which, individuals who think critically tend to believe that knowledge is not an absolute certainty or from authority; thus, they consider knowledge as relativistic and constructivistic. Critical thinkers make their judgments by using evidence and reason, and believe that knowledge is constructed and reconstructed by the process of new data or new perspectives emerging, thereby prompting the generation of new ideas. This theory, which is based on an epistemological perspective, provides a helpful theoretical framework for better understanding the process through which critical thinking influences employees' creativity (King & Kitchener, 2004).

Moreover, critical thinking is different from other individual variables that have been commonly investigated in employee creativity. Individual factors, such as creative personality (Gough, 1979), Big Five personality factors (Costa & McCrae, 1992; McCrae, 1987), mood (George & Zhou, 2002), and learning orientation (Gong et al., 2009), have been found to influence employee creativity. These potential predictors, however, differ from critical thinking, which reflects individuals' epistemological perspective, and this is the gap we aimed to fill in this study. Consequently, our first goal was to examine the relationship between critical thinking and employee creativity, based on the RJM.

Our second goal was to explore the underlying processes of how critical thinking affects employee creativity. According to Amabile's (1988, 1996) componential theory of creativity, there are three key components of creativity: domain-relevant skills, creative-relevant processes, and task motivation. Creative process engagement is defined as "employees' engagement in creativity-relevant methods or processes, including (1) problem identification, (2) information searching and encoding, and (3) idea and alternative generation" (Zhang & Bartol, 2010, p. 107). On the basis of the theory of a componential model of creativity, we reasoned that creative process engagement plays a mediating role in the relationship between critical thinking and employee creativity. …

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