Publication: Academy of Management Journal (APR 2009)
Article: A cross-level perspective on employee creativity: goal orientation, team learning behavior, and individual creativity
Authors: G. Hirst, D. Van Kippenberg and J. Zhou
Reviewed by: Katie Bachman
In most cases, employee creativity is as much of a necessity for companies as competent management or copy machines—it’s the only way business can get done. New research has evaluated the impact of work climate on employee creativity and the results have some interesting implications for organizations.
According to this research, team-level learning behavior (i.e. the encouragement of learning, exploring, and innovating) is crucial for creative expression by members at an individual level. For employees who already have a learning orientation, teams that encourage learning and creative expression gain a lot over teams that have low levels of learning behavior. Even for employees with an approach performance orientation, (i.e., individuals who are motivated by achieving good performance on external indicators of knowledge or skill) team learning behavior encourages people to be creative so as to show themselves in a positive light. The only situation in which creative performance remains stable over different levels of team learning behavior is for those with a performance avoidant orientation (i.e., individuals who are motivated by avoiding poor performance on external indicators of knowledge or skill). These employees are unlikely to innovate because they will not want to show weakness or uncertainty.
Learning behaviors can be supported at higher organization levels and trickle down to the worker. For managers, this research means that encouraging team learning behaviors helps most employees and won’t hurt anyone. So, let the brainstorming begin!
Hirst, G., Van Knippenberg, D., & Zhou, J. (2009). A cross-level perspective on employee creativity: goal orientation, team learning behavior, and individual creativity. Academy of Management Journal, 52, 280-293.