Three Factors That Inspire Creativity at Work

graphic designer at work
Topic(s): creativity, leadership, teams
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

Organizations are always seeking ways to increase employee creativity, so how can an organization ensure that their team is acting as a cohesive, effective, creative unit? It turns out that this task it is not quite as rudimentary as people may think. 


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 always thinking the same thing. Instead, we need cognitive team diversity, which is when people think differently, have different knowledge and skills, and come to the table with different values and beliefs. The logical step is that cognitive team diversity—thinking differently—leads to more creativity among team members. This is quite logical, because if people think differently, they’ll probably come up with different ideas.


There are two more components that the authors say need to be added to the model. One is leadership. When a team has a charismatic or transformational leader, that relationship between cognitive team diversity and creativity is strengthened. But when the leader is not charismatic, the relationship between cognitive diversity and creativity doesn’t hold up. The other thing to look out for is creative self-efficacy among team members. If team members think that cognitive diversity and creativity are important, it will be. However, if team members don’t feel like creativity is warranted or appreciated, it won’t be.


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.