How Well-Connected Leaders Can Improve Workplace Innovation and Creativity

Topic(s): creativity, leadership
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: The benefits from well-connected leaders: Leader social network ties as facilitators of employee radical creativity
Authors: V. Venkataramani, A.W. Richter, R. Clarke 

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 IMPORTANCE OF WELL-CONNECTED LEADERS

The new study (Venkataramani, Richter, & Clarke, 2014) 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 is 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 that the leaders can then pass on to their teams.

WIDE SOCIAL NETWORKS INCREASE CREATIVITY

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 team leaders know, the more connected they become to big picture concepts rather than focusing solely on the current thoughts within a team.

Of course, it is 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 a 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.

BIG PICTURE TAKEAWAYS FOR ORGANIZATIONS

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.

Venkataramani, V., Richter, A. W., & Clarke, R. (2014). Creative benefits from well-connected leaders: Leader social network ties as facilitators of employee radical creativity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99(5), 966-975.