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

We examined the contingent value of individuals' critical thinking on their creativity at work by focusing on the generation of, process of, and solutions found, in developing novel and useful ideas. To extend previous research emphasizing individual characteristics, such as personality traits, we focused on the value of individuals' critical thinking and its impact on creativity. In the pretest, 442 employees completed a critical thinking questionnaire and then, in a field study, 211 dyads of managers and their subordinates completed the validated questionnaire. Results revealed a positive relationship between critical thinking and employee creativity, and creative process engagement completely mediated this relationship. Further, leader-member exchange was found to weaken the relationship between critical thinking and creative process engagement. Implications of the study for practice are discussed.

Keywords: critical thinking, employee creativity, leader-member exchange, managers, subordinates, creative process engagement.

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. …

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