Have you ever stopped to consider how your emotional state affects your creativity, or how interpersonal dynamics, such as trust and a sense of safety, affect your team’s ability to work together effectively? Creativity always happens within a context, and the people and environments we interact with actually play a huge role in our ability to generate fresh ideas and put them into action within a group or organization. In recent years, creativity researchers have investigated creativity and innovation among individuals in specific professional environments, as well as within teams, organizations, and industries in order to better understand group creativity and innovation, including what factors promote or hinder creativity, and how organizations can facilitate and enhance creativity in order to drive innovation.
Creative problem solving (and question asking) requires both critical and creative thinking, including an ability to apprehend the depth and complexity of the creative task or problem at hand, and to think imaginatively about possible approaches in order to arrive at an original and elegant solution. Indeed, creativity and innovation at the organizational level represent complex interactions between individuals and teams requiring a good deal of empathy, sensitivity, and skillful communication between parties in order to achieve effective collaboration and the best and most harmonious solutions to challenging problems.
A number of studies on organizational creativity have shown that individual-level emotional and affective states, as well as interpersonal and organization-wide dynamics, play a significant role in the creative process. Generally speaking, group creativity benefits from positive affect and activating moods, a feeling of flow that involves task engagement and challenging goals, and a balance of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation on the part of individual team members. When individuals collaborate in teams and organizations, they thrive on a sense of connection, empathy, trust, and good working relationships.
Teams also benefit tremendously from positive, transformational leadership built on the ability to communicate a larger vision, enroll team members in that vision, and truly listen and receive feedback. It’s important for leaders to allow team members a large degree of individual autonomy and freedom to explore. In contrast, negative mood, an overly controlling leadership style, and a lack of trust and psychological safety among teams can hinder collaboration and creativity in the organizational context. Ultimately, leaders and team members who are able to listen deeply, communicate skillfully, and promote positive affect and organizational climate are those most likely to thrive creatively and drive innovation.
Interested in learning more? Check out these references:
Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1996/2013.
Encyclopedia of Creativity, 2nd Edition, Edited by Mark Runco and Steve Pritzker, San Diego: Academic Press, 2011.
Group creativity: Innovation through collaboration Edited by Paul Paulus and Bernard Nijstad. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Handbook of Organizational Creativity, Edited by Michael Mumford. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 2012.