How to Inspire Workplace Innovation: Increase Self-Efficacy


Workplace innovation can be somewhat elusive, so what are the secrets to encouraging creative thinking and innovation within the workplace?  A study by Ng and Lucianetti (2015) explored what factors influence individual innovative behavior. Previous research has not given sufficient attention to employees’ “sense of agency” in determining innovation. Sense of agency means the innate desire and intention to affect outcomes by one’s own actions. The study under review sought to address this issue.



Innovative behavior is comprised not only by generating new ideas, but also by spreading those ideas through the organization, and working to apply those ideas. This study focused on creative self-efficacy, persuasion self-efficacy and change self-efficacy and their impact on innovative behavior. Creative self-efficacy is the extent to which employees believe in their ability to come up with new ideas. Persuasion self-efficacy refers to employees ‘ level of confidence in their ability to translate ideas and get buy-in from others, and finally, change efficacy deals with employees’ ability to deal with work demands despite challenges and changes within that environment.



The findings suggest that as employees feel increasingly confident in the three areas of self-efficacy (creative, persuasion, and change), there is a corresponding increase in innovative behavior. This emphasizes the link between employees’ cognitive beliefs about their own abilities and their subsequent behavior. Peer respect was also found to aid innovative behavior, as employees are more likely to share and contribute when they feel their ideas and efforts are respected. This goes a long way in reducing the anxieties and fears that stifle innovation.

In addition, the study found that employees’ sense of organizational trustworthiness was a contributing factor to facilitating innovation. Another key finding was the extent to which a sense of collectivism may not facilitate innovative behavior, despite efforts targeting growth in self-efficacy. This may be due to the fact that collectivist-minded people value social cohesion, which innovation may disrupt.



This study shows that belief in one’s own creative ability is critical in fostering innovation. In terms of training, the focus should be on increasing all three types of self-efficacy. This will help impact the various aspects of innovative behavior: idea generation, persuasion and implementation. Managers should seek to create an environment that welcomes new ideas in order to reduce the anxiety and fear associated with contributing.

Also, individuals with a collectivist orientation are usually valued in organizations, but this personality orientation could hinder innovative performance. However, there are various ways of promoting collective innovative behavior, such as linking reward systems to team performance.

Good Moods Encourage Speaking Up at Work

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology, 2015
Article: How and When Peers’ Positive Mood Influences Employees’ Voice
Reviewed by: Ben Sher


We can probably agree that speaking up at work is a good idea when employees have constructive things to say. They might have insight into how something can be done more efficiently or an idea that leads to better results. Researchers in this study (Liu, Tangirala, Lam, Chen, Jia, Huang, 2015) focused on this type of speaking up—the kind that involves making productive suggestions—as opposed to criticism. Interestingly, they found that good moods go a long way in determining whether someone will speak up at work.



The two part study consisted of a scenario-based lab experiment (“what would you do…”) and a real-world evaluation of employees and their tendencies. Results show that when the listener or “target” is in a good mood, people were more likely to speak up. This is because of psychological safety, meaning the speaker felt safe in making a suggestion. When the listener is not in a good mood, psychological safety is lower. In this case, the speaker may fear rejection, being ignored, or being made fun of, and is more likely to choose to remain silent.

The authors also found that the effects of mood are more pronounced in two situations. The first is when the relationship between the speaker and the listener is poor. If it were a good relationship, the speaker might always feel safe in making suggestions. When the relationship is bad, people rely more on moods to guide their behavior, as the moods will signal whether or not now is a good and safe time to speak up.

The second factor that made people rely more on the moods of the listener is when the speaker had a lower social status than the listener. When someone has a higher social status, co-workers are even more afraid of potential ridicule, retaliation, and other harmful outcomes if the comment is not welcome or seen as threatening. This is because the ridicule or retaliation is coming from someone who is regarded as important or who controls resources that might affect the speaker. That’s when people rely on the listener’s mood to an even greater extent.



When organizations desire improvement, especially for creative processes, they can benefit from employees speaking up. Oftentimes it’s the employees who are directly involved with the work who are best able to suggest process improvements. Nevertheless, this research reminds us that employees don’t just speak up because they are the “speaking up kind”, or are “bold and not afraid to be heard”. Instead, managers need to be aware of the subtle situational factors that can lead toward either encouraging or discouraging speaking up. Sometimes, as in this study, very subtle factors can lead to very different outcomes in the workplace. It might make us want to think twice about strolling around the office in a very bad mood.

Emotional Intelligence Leads to Good Moods and Creativity in the Workplace

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology, 2015
Article: Regulating and Facilitating: The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Maintaining and Using Positive Affect for Creativity
Reviewed by: Ben Sher


Emotional intelligence is good for influencing many workplace outcomes, but can it really lead to creativity in the workplace? Some past researchers believed that the two had nothing to do with each other. They said that emotional intelligence was about figuring out the single best way to handle an emotional situation and creativity was about brainstorming many different ways of doing things. These almost sound like opposite strategies. But new research (Parke, Seo, Sherf, 2015) has found that skills and strategies associated with emotional intelligence can ultimately lead to more creativity in the workplace.

Emotional intelligence refers to the way that people effectively manage their emotions and successfully navigate emotional situations. The study focused on two different things that people with emotional intelligence do, emotional regulation and emotional facilitation. People who are good at emotional regulation can manage their own emotions, or the emotions of other people. For example, during a rough day, they probably have some good strategies for making sure that the potential negative emotions do not ruin the workday. Similarly, they might have ways to deal with the negative emotions of coworkers or supervisors, and make sure that their own emotions remain positive. Emotional facilitation refers to the ability to use emotions toward productive thinking and sound decision making.



This study was conducted on young business professionals and used elaborate data collection techniques that included different sources of data (for example, self-report and managerial ratings) and different ways of collecting the data (for example, both tests and surveys).

The first major finding of the study is that emotional regulation oftentimes leads to improved mood. The researchers found that work environments which call for a low degree of creativity or a high degree of “information processing” (work based on monitoring or using specific information) can prevent many employees from maintaining good moods. This is not surprising; sometimes boring work just gets you down. However, employees who are better at emotional regulation will find strategies that help them deal with more monotonous work. These people will be able to achieve and maintain good moods despite their work responsibilities.

The second major finding in this study is that people who are good at emotional facilitation will be better equipped to turn good moods into workplace creativity. These people will recognize that a good mood provides the perfect boost for doing work that requires persistence, like idea generation or other creative endeavors. On the other hand, people who are not good at emotional facilitation—in other words they are poor at using emotions to do better work—might use their good mood to convince themselves that minimal effort is actually good enough and that they have already achieved success.



This study shows two ways that emotional intelligence can improve the workplace, especially in regards to creativity. Emotional regulation can lead to better moods, and emotional facilitation can help translate better moods into creative output. The authors say that this has several implications for the workplaces that want to foster creativity among their employees. The first is that organizations who require creativity may want to consider hiring employees who have emotional intelligence abilities.

The second implication is based on the fact that the emotional intelligence factors in the study are not merely traits that people are born with, but instead the authors refer to them as abilities that can be trained. While some people might naturally possess higher degrees of emotional intelligence, the rest of us can use various strategies that can maximize our ability to be emotionally intelligent. As an example, the authors mention cognitive reframing, which is a strategy used by emotionally intelligent people that involves “looking on the bright side”. A difficult task might be seen as a challenge or opportunity for growth instead of an annoyance. Organizations can help train their employees to use similar strategies which will help them become more emotionally intelligent, and as this study concludes, more likely to come up with the next big creative idea.

Servant Leadership Benefits Performance through Serving Culture

Publication: Academy of Management Journal
Article: Servant Leadership and Serving Culture: Influence on Individual and Unit Performance
Reviewed by: Winnie Jiang

The concept of servant leadership is becoming increasingly popular, especially in the service industry. Multiple studies have found that servant leadership is positively related to individual and organizational outcomes such as performance and organizational citizenship behavior, which is when employees go beyond their formal job requirements to help the organization.However, curious people may still wonder how servant leadership produces these positive outcomes. The lack of understanding of how servant leadership leads to these positive effects can make it difficult for organizations to implement this leadership practice and to fully enjoy its benefits.

New research (Liden, Wayne, Liao, & Meuser, 2014) has found that servant leadership leads to favorable individual and organizational outcomes through fostering a serving culture and enhancing employees’ sense of identification with their organization.

Servant Leadership, Serving Culture & Identification

Servant leadership is the leadership style that emphasizes a leader’s role as a “servant” first and a “leader” second. In other words, servant leadership promotes the philosophy of leading by serving. Servant leaders place their followers’ needs ahead of their own needs and consider it a priority to support followers in achieving their full potential. A servant leader also genuinely cares for followers and encourages followers to support each other.

Serving culture in this study refers to a situation where group members share the expectation of serving or helping others. In a team with a serving culture, every member treats helping others as a priority.

Employees’ identification with an organization is the extent to which the employees view themselves as part of the organization and the extent to which they see the organization they work for as an important part of their life.

How Does Servant Leadership Benefit Performance?

This study finds that servant leadership demonstrated by store managers is positively related to a serving culture in their stores. The authors argue that this is likely because employees model their managers’ behavior and become helpful and supportive themselves. The serving culture is subsequently found to predict better store performance as well as better job performance, enhanced creativity, higher customer service quality, and lower turnover intention. Serving culture is also found to predict a higher level of employees’ identification with their stores, which has a positive effect on many of the benefits mentioned above as well.

How Can Organizations Encourage a Serving Culture? 

The major takeaway from this article is that leaders (especially those in the service sector) might benefit from learning to become servant leaders and engage in servant leadership practices such as emotionally supporting their followers. Doing this will foster a serving culture in the organization and enhance employees’ identification with the organization. This can generate favorable outcomes for individuals and the organization as a whole. Organizations in the service industry may consider adding servant leadership to their executive or leadership development programs. Furthermore, because serving culture is the critical factor that produces the positive outcomes, in addition to developing servant leaders, organizations can promote serving culture through other channels such as encouraging voluntary activities and community service.

How Well-Connected Leaders are Improving Workplace Innovation and Creativity

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: The benefits from well-connected leaders: Leader social network ties as facilitators of employee radical creativity
Reviewed by: Anjali Banerjee


In recent years organizations have recognized the importance of fostering workplace innovation and creativity. The problem is, how can they make it happen?

New research suggests that the key might be dependent on the size of team leaders’ social networks. By working with leaders who have substantial social networks within the organization, employees are granted access to more resources, ideas, and strategies to utilize in creative ways.



The new study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, examined 214 employees working in public technology and environmental services. The research focused on the impact of the social networks of the leaders and employees involved, as well as instances of radical creativity.

The study found that it’s important that leaders be connected to the members of their team, but equally important that they be well-connected outside the team as well.

Leaders with expansive connections beyond the scope of the immediate work team provide access to a broader variety of resources, including new perspectives and ideas which the leader can then pass on to their team.



The importance of having a wide social network as a team leader hinges on the value of providing a broad-view strategy for employees. The more people a team leader knows, the more connected they become to Big Picture concepts rather than focusing solely on the current thoughts within a team.

Of course, it’s not enough for the leader to merely make new connections. They also need to focus on sharing the insights and strategies these connections provide. By sharing diverse perspectives, team leaders can help battle the creative stagnancy that often happens with teams over time.

This research suggests that employee social networks can also be instrumental if they serve as liaison to individuals outside the team, especially when their leaders are less integral to the team or are not stepping up to the plate. But the interplay between employee and leader social networks needs to be better explored in the future in order to fully understand the different impacts of each.



The important info organizational leaders can glean from this research is that creativity is fostered by connectivity to others in the organization.

Access to additional outside perspectives help to provide unique resources and ideas that could lead to innovative creative development.

This research also supports the notion of a connected organization wherein ideas are shared freely between leaders in order to stimulate the creativity of the entire company.


The Negative Effects of Knowledge Hiding on Organizational Trust and Creativity

Publication: Academy of Management
Article: What Goes Around Comes Around: Knowledge Hiding, Perceived Motivational Climate an Creativity
Reviewed by: Will Smith


Have you ever encountered a situation where a colleague purposely withheld pertinent information? How did that change your interactions with them, or the dynamics within the office?

A recent study addresses the topic of Knowledge Hiding, and how consciously withholding information can affect both trust and creativity.

The act of hiding knowledge leads to what the researchers describe as “the distrust loop.” In this cycle, employees who intentionally hide information lose the trust of their peers. In order to impart a sense of justice, the effected peers will then withhold information from the knowledge hiders. This, in turn, affects the knowledge hider’s ability to collaborate effectively and generate creative ideas.



The researchers felt it was important that the organizational environment be factored into the equation, and examined two types– the mastery climate and the performance climate. A mastery climate is one in which cooperation, employee development, and mastery of skills are encouraged. A performance climate is based on an employee’s ability to outperform colleagues and receive recognition/rewards relative to that of their peers.

The researchers conducted two studies to test their hypotheses. The first consisted of 240 employees and 34 supervisors. Employees were measured on their creativity, how they perceived the organizational climate, and if they considered themselves knowledge hiders. The supervisors were then asked to provide their perception of the creativity of their employees.

The second study consisted of 132 undergraduate students, who were asked to complete a business scenario in which students were places in three groups. The scenarios consisted of conditions that measured of the mastery climate, performance climate or no climate. Some students were also randomly selected to be knowledge hiders.



The researchers learned that knowledge hiders in a performance climate found themselves within the distrust loop, limiting their collaboration with peers and ultimately making them less creative than other groups. Knowledge hiders in this group were more concerned with protecting themselves, which hindered their ability to be creative in comparison with the other groups.

The groups without knowledge hiders proved more capable of freely exchanging ideas and, as a result, were more creative. Interestingly, in mastery climates, employees were generally less likely to be knowledge hiders. The mastery climate fosters such an environment of collaboration and knowledge sharing that it ultimately decreases the need for knowledge hiding, and thus does not affect creativity



In organizations in which innovation is important, encouraging employees to collaborate allows them opportunities to more readily engage each other. It allows employees to openly share ideas and drive organizational initiatives.

The big picture take-away from this study is that fostering an environment of collaboration in the workplace removes the necessity for knowledge hiding, which is ultimately beneficial to the creative progress of the entire organization.

Culture and Creativity: Is It All About Social Context?

Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior
Article: Social context: Key to understanding culture’s effects on creativity
Reviewed by: Angela A. Beiler

In recent years, workplace creativity has become an area of interest to many employers.

With the increase in globalization within organizations, understanding employee creativity also requires an understanding of how and when individuals within various cultures exhibit this characteristic.

In a new study, researchers found that the manifestation of creativity differs between Eastern and Western cultures, which could be due to a number of cultural differences.



Two main differences between Eastern and Western cultures are power distance and collectivism.

Eastern cultures, such as China, tend to have higher levels of power distance, which is characterized by differential treatment based on social status. This could inhibit employees’ willingness to take risks if they do not feel comfortable divulging their original creative ideas to a supervisor.

Western cultures, such as the United States, tend to have much lower levels of power distance. Because the culture typically has higher levels of equality regardless of social status, employees may not be as negatively influenced by the presence of a supervisor.

Additionally, East Asian societies are traditionally more collaborative, which may encourage creativity within a group. Whereas the Western focus on independence may lower creativity when employees operate within group scenarios.



To examine these cultural differences, the researchers conducted simultaneous studies in the United States and China.

Seventy-nine undergraduate students were asked to take part in a creativity task– either alone, in a group, or with a supervisor present. Responses were rated for creative output via originality, total number of ideas, and usefulness. The researchers then compared results for the two groups.

The results indicated that Chinese participants provided less original ideas while supervised, whereas American participants were not impacted by supervisor presence. Conversely, the American participants provided fewer ideas when in groups than they did when they were alone, while the Chinese participants were not impacted by the presence of peers.



This study highlights the importance of understanding social contexts within a diverse workplace, and how desired outcomes like creativity may be impacted by cultural differences.

While Chinese workers may benefit from a supervisor-free group environment when completing creative tasks, American workers may perform best when taking on these tasks individually.

The conclusion is that employers may not be able to simply take a one-size-fits-all approach to improving conditions for creativity in the workplace, especially if they have employees with diverse backgrounds or act as a multinational organization.

An Easy Recipe for Improving Team Performance on Creative Tasks

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (Nov 2013)
Article: Examining the Asymmetrical Effects of Goal Faultlines in Groups: A Categorization-Elaboration Approach
Reviewed by: Ben Sher

Leaders and I-O Psychologists are always trying to discover new ways to improve team performance. New research by Ellis, Mai, and Chrisitan (2013), has found an interesting new way to do this for creative tasks. When team members have different approaches to achieving goals, team performance may improve.

This research is rooted in goal setting theory (Locke & Latham, 1990), which asserts that people who set specific and challenging goals will outperform people who merely “try their best”. Results of the current study also support this classic I-O Psychology theory, but in this case, the researchers went one step further. They also analyzed teams which had two members who set specific, challenging goals, and two other members who were trying their best.

What happened? When the teams were asked to perform creative tasks, these mixed teams outperformed everybody. When the teams performed routine tasks, the mixed teams were not very effective. The authors explain that creative work is best accomplished when team members are able to build on top of each other’s ideas. When one team member has a novel suggestion, someone else will have to “reframe” the idea and offer a practical way of applying it to the problem at hand. This process is easiest to do when team members are approaching problems differently, which is the case when they are using different approaches to achieve goals. When work is more routine, team members will not benefit from having different approaches.

This research is practically important because it provides an easy recipe for improving team performance on creative tasks. Although creativity is naturally strengthened through diversity, the “diversity of perspective” that is suggested here may work better than “social category diversity”, which the authors note can unfortunately sometimes lead to negative outcomes.

If you’re happy and you know it, your boss doesn’t matter: How a positive mood makes up for transformational leadership

One of the major areas of recent leadership research has been on the impact of transformational leaders. Transformational leaders exhibit behaviors that go above and beyond basic job requirements, including behaving in a manner that helps employees focus on group needs rather than individual, showing high levels of optimism and positive feelings, creating an intellectually stimulating work environment, and helping employees feel personally cared for at work. The behaviors of transformational leaders are seen to have positive outcomes within an organization, increasing creativity as well as helping behaviors. The current study suggests that a transformational leadership style may be less influential when employees have a naturally more positive demeanor, looking specifically at both employee creativity and helping behaviors.

In order to study this, surveys were collected from 212 pairs of supervisors and employees in China. Supervisor surveys measured the employee’s creativity and helping behaviors, while employee surveys measured their own general demeanor (known as Positive Affectivity) and their supervisor’s leadership style.

The researchers found that transformational leadership was not as impactful for predicting helping behaviors or creativity in employees who had more positive general demeanor. This suggests that organizations may be able to look at employee personality traits when pairing employees with supervisors in order to improve the work environment. If a group of employees tends to have a more negative attitude, pairing them with a supervisor who exhibits traits of a transformational leader may be more effective. On the other hand, employees who are generally in a positive mood do not need this specific leadership style in order to be effective. By paying attention to specific personality traits that may impact job performance, organizations may be able to increase levels of employee creativity and helping behaviors.

The Role of Social Networking for Cultural Entrepreneurs

Publication: Creativity and Innovation Management Journal (2013)
Article: Cultural Entrepreneurship: The Impact of Social Networking on Success
Reviewed by: Arlene Coelho

The last few years have seen a growing trend of cultural business start-ups, globally. A cultural business (events, arts, music, theatre, etc.) is significantly different from a commercial business for more than one reason. Cultural businesses are usually at an agency level with a limited number of people. They still have their founding member(s) actively involved in the day to day dealings of the business. Additionally, the success measures for these businesses rely heavily on social networking and strong interpersonal connections in addition to fiscal outcomes. Constructing sturdy social ties lies at the very heart of a successful cultural venture. Maintaining healthy relations with competitors and building on personal networks directly helps a cultural business gather information and resources for mutual benefit.

Due to the nuance of this business sector however, there is an absence of a guided direction as to how much networking actually helps the cultural business and to the extent to which a cultural entrepreneur’s reputation affects the business. The current paper explored this area, and reveals some interesting and constructive information.

It appears that the more favorable a business’s reputation, the more likely it is to succeed and grow. A start-up’s reputation hinges on that of its entrepreneur. The current research therefore suggests that the more actively (socially) involved a cultural entrepreneur is the better the chances are for the business to succeed. A cultural entrepreneur is expected to build strong social relations with competitors, as well as building a sturdy personal social network, in order to be in the loop on important shifts and developments in the cultural business landscape.

Two major obstacles affect cultural business: funding sources and competition with other similar businesses. In the face of limited funding, private cultural businesses find it difficult to compete with public institutions that receive more government funding. A strong networking specialist can greatly help to mitigate the disadvantages a for-profit culture enterprise might face. However, it appears that while a healthy network can help overcome the constraints posed due to limited funding, the benefit is not the same when the level of competitiveness increases. Since cultural entrepreneurs spend a tremendous amount of energy and time networking for mutual benefits with peers, who are also potentially competitors, there seems to exist a general supportive mindset among the cultural community. Unfortunately, when the level of competitiveness increases, perhaps due to a dearth of available funding, it poses a problem that cannot be resolved through social networking alone. In fact, social networking may negatively affect the business, at times of increased competitiveness, since social networking involves a mutual benefit factor.

With the limited research available on cultural entrepreneurship, the current study has contributed in a large way by pointing out the importance of social networking and its limitations as well. Cultural entrepreneurs should focus on building social networks, as part of their business strategy that can assist in overcoming some of the common issues faced by cultural start-ups. However, they should remain conscious that in times of increased competition, alternatives to these social networks will need to be explored.