Time Pressure Can Have a Detrimental Effect on Creativity

Creativity and innovation are two words that describe much of the working world. Everywhere you turn, companies are pushing their latest innovative product or are encouraging their employees to think creatively. At the same time, work seems to be moving faster. Deadlines seem to be coming sooner and sooner, and there are never enough hours in the day to get through everything. But how do creativity and this time pressure interact? Do tight deadlines promote or stifle an employee’s creative efforts? These questions are the driving force behind the latest research.


The researchers (Zhang et al., 2023) collected data from 203 participants across several different Chinese organizations. They assessed creativity by using supervisor ratings, and they distinguished between radical creativity (novel groundbreaking ideas) and incremental creativity (minor but practical improvements to existing practices).

Through a series of analyses, they found that time pressure resulted in lower radical creativity, especially when employees were not able or not encouraged to look outside of their own organization for ideas. However, the more that employees were able to plan, the less of an effect the time pressure had on their radical creativity.

The researchers also found that when there was too little or too much time pressure, incremental creativity suffered; at moderate levels of time pressure, incremental creativity reached its peak.


For organizations that want to prioritize creativity and innovation, this research suggests several important actions that can be taken:

  • Try to minimize time pressure, such as tight deadlines, whenever possible. Minimizing tight deadlines and allowing flexibility may serve to boost creativity.
  • Encourage long-term planning and help employees work toward fulfilling their long-term goals. This can help mitigate the negative effects of time pressure and allow employees to still be creative even with tight deadlines.
  • Build knowledge sharing connections, both inside and outside the organization. Knowledge sharing with other organizations may include external workshops, conferences, or interorganizational collaboration. Knowledge sharing within the organization can include interdepartmental cooperation opportunities or establishing a strong knowledge management system.


Zhang, Y., Qu, H., Walter, F., Liu, W., & Wang, M. (2023). A new perspective on time pressure and creativity: Distinguishing employees’ radical versus incremental creativity. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 44, 1400-1418.

Image credit: istockphoto/Andrii Moroziuk