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.

Leading Creative People


Publication: Creativity and Innovation Management
Article: Authenticity and Respect: Leading Creative Teams in the Performing Arts
Reviewed by: Arlene Coelho

Creative individuals value freedom, are highly specialized, self-motivated, and prefer to develop their own knowledge base rather than be taught. These characteristics can make leading creative people a challenge.

So far most research on leadership has been about objective knowledge, in other words, what is required to be a good leader. However, the how of leadership is more significant, when leading ‘creative experts’.

The current study conducted 24 narrative interviews on creative artists, which helped build a social understanding of what it means to lead highly creative people. Results showed that leadership is socially different when dealing with a group of artists than when dealing with business professionals. However, important parallels were drawn which can be successfully adapted by all leaders. The following five themes emerged.

Success and Leadership
A creative person’s success is highly dependent on his or her leader. While artists usually receive acclaim and feedback from the media and public, it is their leader’s approval and feedback they really seek. Leaders who share in the failure and success of their teams provide impetus for continual improvement. While creative individuals seek autonomy in their working style, they need a leader who is available for guidance and genuine feedback.

Authenticity
Authenticity is of utmost value to artistic people; they must remain true to themselves during the good and bad phases. In order to guide them well, their leader must recognize the value an artistic person places on authenticity. Additionally, a leader’s achievements and peculiarities are often the very elements with which creative people will identify. Hence, it is crucial that a leader remain honest and open.

Respect
The main foundations upon which creative workers build respect for their leaders is the leader’s expertise, track record, and personality. Additionally Leaders are expected to create an environment of trust and mutual respect, honoring the diversity of a team by supporting the different working styles of varied personality types.

Autonomy and Freedom
Successful leaders of creative teams provide a solid support system, while allowing autonomy among the team members. Autonomy enriches a creative bent of mind, and strong support provides guidance, creating an environment conducive to nurturing creativity.

Dark Side of Leadership
In addition to the four positive themes, one negative aspect of leadership emerged that must be considered. Leaders who are concerned with self admiration and empowering themselves as a result of team work greatly dampen a creative environment. Therefore, it is important that leaders bear in mind that only by working with the team and for the team will they really achieve the greatest possible success.

While performing artists might be more creative than your average office worker, in a regular business context these themes can be applied by leaders to deal with those creative experts who usually form a small part of the team. The need of the hour is capturing different styles of leadership in order to bring out the best in the team. A ‘One Size Fits All’ style of leading is passé especially when leading creative people.

Implementing Creative Ideas at Work


Publication: Academy of Management Journal (2012)
Article: Putting creativity to work: The implementation of creative ideas in organizations
Reviewed by: Megan Leasher

Creativity is an interesting thing. It tends to strike people differently at different times. For me, I am most creative in the air; generally while enjoying my micro-pretzels from Delta.

But creativity is completely useless unless you can make your ideas a reality. In my job, I am lucky that I have a cool boss who lets me bring my weird, atypical ideas to life. (I’m also hoping I get props from my boss for calling her “cool” in print.)

Sadly, the implementation of creative ideas at work is not simple. Creativity challenges the status quo. Change can make people uncomfortable, even combative. People often resist creativity, because they aren’t sure the results will be worth the risk.

In this study, researchers wanted to learn what factors lead to creative solutions. Specifically, they found that individuals with many creative ideas were more likely to have those ideas implemented when they also possessed a high motivation for successful completion, strong ties within the organization (for buy-in), and robust networking abilities. But when the researchers dug a little deeper, they found some factors predicted implementation more than others. Overall, the findings suggest that the link between creative ideas and their implementation is very complex, and must take into account individual, relationship, and situational factors.

Creativity does not equate to implementation; just as micro-pretzels do not equate to being in first class.

What do you think helps get creative ideas at work implemented?

Creativity and Firm Performance

The impact of creativity on firm performance depends on the riskiness of a firm’s strategy, the firm’s size, and the ability of the firm’s employees to transform creative ideas into new products and services, according to a study by Yaping Gong, Jing Zhou, & Song Chang. When a company has a risky strategy, creativity leads to decreased firm performance. On the other hand, creativity leads to increased firm performance when the size of the company is small or when a company has a high capacity to transform creative ideas into novel products and services (a.k.a., absorptive capacity).

In their study, Gong, Zhou, & Chang collected data from 148 high-technology firms in China that had 100 or more employees and operated in sectors such as telecommunications and biotechnology. In regard to indicators of creativity, sample items included “[the core knowledge employees, such as engineers] generated novel, but operable work-related ideas.” For firm performance, the firms’ CEOs rated their companies along dimensions such as profit, sales growth, and market share. As rated by the CEOs, items such as “we search for big opportunities, and favor large, bold decisions despite the uncertainty of their outcomes” served as indicators of riskiness orientation. Number of employees served as the measure of firm size, and sample items such as “our [core knowledge employees, such as engineers] can easily implement new products and services” served as indicators of realized absorptive capacity.

Climate: A catalyst for innovation (IO Psychology)

Publication: The Journal of Creative Behavior (2011)
Article: Creative Climate: A Leadership Lever for Innovation
Authors: Scott G. Isaksen & Hans J. Akkermans
Reviewed By: Scott Charles Sitrin

151163Earlier this year, Marissa Mayer, the former Google employee and current Yahoo CEO, ordered employees who were working from home to now work in the office in an attempt to foster more innovation within the company.  This raises the question: what fosters innovation?  According to Mayer and likely based on her previous experience at Google, in-office attendance is key, and according to research by Isaksen and Akkermans, another relevant variable could be climate, which refers to the overall workplace environment.

Isaksen and Akkermans administered surveys to 140 respondents from 103 organizations and 31 industries, and these surveys had participants assess their work climate and the level of innovation of their companies.  Innovation was measured by participants’ responses to three questions graded on a four-point-Likert scale, and sample questions included “We are successful in implementing new ideas to obtain results in my work unit” and “In general, my organization has been successful at innovation.” The Situational Outlook Questionnaire (SOQ) assessed climate, and it looks at the levels of involvement, autonomy, trust, idea-time, playfulness, conflict, idea-support, debate, and risk taking within a work environment.  Results indicated that workplaces with good climates had higher levels of innovation.

Isaksen, S. G. & Akkermans, H. J. (2011). Creative Climate: A Leadership Lever for Innovation. The Journal of Creative Behavior, 45 (3), 161-187.

human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management

 

 

 

 

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Inviting the Inquiry of Science into Strategic Planning (IO Psychology)

Topic: Business Strategy, Creativity, Strategic HR
Publication: Harvard Business Review (SEPT 2012)
Article: Bringing Science to the Art of Strategy
Authors: A. G. Lafley, R. L. Martin, J. W. Rivkin, and N. Siggelkow
Reviewed By: Megan Leasher

Strategic planners sit down once a year.  They pride themselves on their scientific rigor in how they analyze and shoot down every idea they generate.  They then proceed with a less-than-stellar, not-so-innovative idea, and they wonder why the organization doesn’t swoon with delight?  Lafley and colleagues (2012) assert that a key component of science is missing in these proceedings: the inquiry.  They argue that the scientific method must first begin with the brainstorming of novel hypotheses, then proceed into the design and testing of these hypotheses.  The authors detail a series of steps that incorporate the inquiry of science into strategic planning to achieve a more creative, successful, and efficient direction.

The first step is the key differentiator of the entire process.    This step entails identifying at least two mutual exclusive options to resolving the issue at hand.  All options must be framed as pure possibilities, devout of criticism, skepticism, and analysis.  This is where the invention and inquiry of science comes into play.  This is where we all get to be creative designers and dream into the realm of pure possibilities.  The authors describe possibility as any “happy story that describes how a firm might succeed” (p. 59).

Then the list of possibilities is broadened and time is taken to identify what conditions must hold true in order for each possibility to succeed.  Conditions may include things like customer support, market sustainability, or feasibility of supply.  All conditions must be framed positively, so that everyone feels confident in success if all conditions were to hold true.  Judgment, skepticism, and analysis are not yet allowed, so that all possibilities continue to be framed as positive.  After this, barriers that would prevent each condition to hold true are identified and ranked.  We now allow judgment and skepticism through the door, but analysis must still wait outside.

The next step is where experiments are designed to test the barriers to each condition.  We must ask: What are the right questions that will lead us to answers that we can have faith in?  As the authors mention, tests can be as simple as talking to a supplier, or as complicated as surveying thousands of customers.

We then conduct the tests and allow the scientific analysis to begin.  It’s time to put on our goggles, get data happy, and crunch the numbers.  The authors assert that the first test should always be of the condition that the group feels will least likely hold true.  If the test fails and the barrier is confirmed true, no further testing is needed and the possibility is rejected.  If the condition passes the test, move on to the next condition unlikely to hold true, and so on.  Tests for a possibility should only be conducted sequentially, never in parallel, to conserve effort and resources.

Lastly, the final possibility is selected.  After reviewing the results of all tests of the barriers, the group simply picks the solution with the fewest serious barriers left standing.  It is a relavitvely simple, anticlimactic step; all of the hard work has already been completed and we are left with practically a simple tally count.  It is important to call out that testing barriers to conditions provides evidence, not proof.  Evidence still requires human judgment that is fully aware that risk is always present.

I feel this framework has such potential and would love to see its value play out first hand.  But controlling the judgment and skepticism early on is a monumental challenge; this process requires a shift in mindset and determined, focused group leaders who can direct participants to frame all choices as possibilities for success.  Plus, a geek like me wants to jump right into the test design and analysis.  But to be “scientific,” we must inquire.  Science isn’t just analysis; it’s play, and brainstorming, and invention beyond your brain’s current capacity.

Lafley, A. G., Martin, R. L., Rivkin, J. W., Siggelkow, N. (Sept 2012).  Bringing science to the art of strategy.  Harvard Business Review, 57-66.

human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management

 

 

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Creativity is More Than Thinking Outside the Box (IO Psychology)

Topic: Teams, Creativity
Publication: Academy of Management Journal
Article: Cognitive team diversity and individual team member creativity: A cross-level interaction
Authors: S. J. Shin, T.-Y. Kim, J.-Y. Lee, & L. Bian
Reviewed By: Katie Bachman

A creative team is a joy to own. But how can an organization ensure that their team is acting as a cohesive, effective, creative unit? It turns out that it is oh so simple, but maybe not as rudimentary as you’d think. Join me as we venture outside the box!

When we talk about creativity in teams, we can talk about an individual team member’s creative contribution or we can talk about the creative output for the team as a unit. But none of this is very good if everyone on a team is thinking the same thing (pro tip: that’s not very creative). Instead, we need cognitive team diversity! That’s psychobabble for needing people to think differently, have different knowledge and skills, and come to the table with different values and beliefs. The logical step here (if you follow my creative way of thinking) should be that cognitive team diversity—thinking differently—leads to more creativity among team members. That makes sense, right? If people think differently, they’ll come up with different ideas.

But wait! You don’t think it’s quite that easy, do you? There are two components that we need to add to the model. One is leadership. When a team has a charismatic (“transformational” for those in the know) leader, that relationship between cognitive team diversity and creativity is the real deal. But when the leader is just blahs-ville, that relationship doesn’t hold up. There other thing to look out for is creative self-efficacy among team members. If team members think that cognitive diversity and creativity and all of that are important, it will be. It’s the same relationship as with leadership—if team members have this self-efficacy, it’s all good; but, if team members don’t feel like creativity is warranted or appreciated, it won’t be.

So, good news! Your team can be creative. Just make sure you have the right kind of leader and everyone feels warm and fuzzy about sharing ideas. No sweat!

Shin, S. J., Kim, T.-Y., Lee, J.-Y., & Bian, L. (2012). Cognitive team diversity and individual team member creativity: A cross-level interaction. Academy of Management Journal, 55, 197-212.

human resource management, organizational industrial psychology, organizational management

 

source for picture: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Ideas_and_Decision_M_g409-New_Idea_p26363.html

 

Is Bureaucracy Bad for Creativity? That Depends on You

Topic: Creativity, Strategic HR, Teams
Publication: Academy of Management Journal
Article: How does bureaucracy impact individual creativity? A cross-level investigation of team contextual influences on goal orientation-creativity relationships
Authors: Giles Hirst, Daan Van Knippenberg, Chin-Hui Chen, & Claudia A. Sacramento
Reviewed By: Katie Bachman

Bureaucracy and creativity. They might seem like mortal enemies—we often think of red tape and paper work as the killer of creative thinking—but it doesn’t have to be! Really, it depends on your employees. When we talk about goal orientation (why people do what they do), we usually take about three types of people. First, you have your learning-oriented workers. These are the ones who do what they do for sheer enjoyment of the work. They are intrinsically motivated. Second, you have your performance-prove-oriented employees. These workers want to show you how good they are. Third and finally, you have your performance-avoid workers. These are your risk-adverse employees—the rule followers. They all respond to bureaucracy differently, particularly when it comes to creativity.

We can divide bureaucracy into two dimensions—centralization and formalization. Centralization deals with the amount of decision making ability team members have. The more centralized decision making is, the less team members have opportunity to add their input. Formalization deals with the paperwork. It’s the policies and procedures employees have to adhere to in their job. Like centralization, the more formal the procedure, the less wiggle-room there is for workers.

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