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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Organizational Creativity
  5. Research Approach
  6. Results
  7. Conclusions
  8. References
  9. Appendices

The creative industries represent an important and growing sector of the UK economy. This paper explores organizational creativity in firms within the creative industries. A questionnaire based on both Amabile's ‘Organizational Creativity’ model and Ekvall's ‘Creative Climate’ model was completed in ten firms in different sectors of the creative industries. Follow-up interviews with five firms were also conducted, to compare the outputs from each model as well as the variation in responses from firms in different sectors. The results indicate that both models of organizational creativity are complementary, although not necessarily fully applicable in the creative industries. Specific differences between firms in the graphic design/branding sector and firms in product design were also observed.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Organizational Creativity
  5. Research Approach
  6. Results
  7. Conclusions
  8. References
  9. Appendices

This paper presents the results of an exploratory study of organizational creativity in a selection of firms operating in the creative industries. The creative industries make a substantial and growing contribution to the UK economy. Between 1997 and 2003 the UK economy grew by 2 per cent per annum, whilst in the creative industries growth was 6 per cent per annum (Cox, 2005). In 2001, the creative industries represented around 5 per cent of GDP, employing around 1.3 million people (DCMS, 2001). In the UK, the creative industries encompass ‘those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have the potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property’ (DCMS, 2001). Within this definition, there are thirteen different sectors ranging from architecture through designer fashion through to film and music.

Outputs from the creative sector are inherently ‘creative’; they provide novel solutions to challenging and open-ended problems. Thus, it is evident that there is much to be learned from this sector on encouraging and managing creativity (Jeffcutt & Pratt, 2002, p. 228). However, perhaps surprisingly, there are still relatively few empirical studies that explicitly explore aspects of creativity in organizations belonging to the creative industries. Banks et al. (2002) commented that there is a lack of knowledge and understanding of the role of creativity in the creative industries. Indeed, much of the work on organizational creativity has emerged from studies investigating firms in other sectors. Firms in the creative industries are also unique, as they often provide creative services to other organizations. Thus, there is an expectation that on a daily basis, individuals will face new problems and creative challenges. Routine is the exception rather than the norm. This differs from firms where daily activities are routine, and thus specific capabilities are needed for non-routine work that requires a creative leap (Napier & Nilsson, 2006).

Thus, this paper reports on an exploratory study to investigate the creative environment in creative industries. The specific sectors explored were architecture, industrial design and branding. The study uses the models of organizational creativity proposed by both Ekvall (1996) and Amabile (1996) as the theoretical foundation for a simple assessment tool. This tool was then used to evaluate creativity in creative organizations, with the following objectives:

  • • 
    To enable comparison between the models of organizational creativity, and identify which model best represents creativity in the creative industries.
  • • 
    To enable a relative comparison between firms in different sectors of the creative industries.
  • • 
    To enable the strengths and weaknesses of individual organizations to be identified, relative to the models.

In addition, the approach itself has been demonstrated as providing a simple way by which organizational creativity might be assessed.

Organizational Creativity

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Organizational Creativity
  5. Research Approach
  6. Results
  7. Conclusions
  8. References
  9. Appendices

Organizational creativity has been studied by many people from both the fields of business and applied psychology. Studies have addressed a wide range of factors affecting creativity from the role of communication (Sonnenburg, 2004) through team development (Tuckman, 1965; Tuckman & Jensen, 1977; Rickards & Moger, 2000) to studies of the overall innovative output and the factors which affect it (Ekvall 1996, 1997; Amabile, 1997; Isaksen & Lauer, 2002). From a business perspective, the term ‘creativity’ is commonly used to describe processes and outputs rather than inherent traits of individuals. Thus, creativity is often defined as the production of ideas which are both novel and applicable to an identified opportunity (Oldham & Cummings, 1996; Amabile, 1997).

Much of the work exploring organizational creativity has focused on the factors which influence creative outcomes in firms (Ekvall, 1996; Amabile, 1997). A range of factors have been identified which are in principle generalizable to any organization. These factors have been derived from case work in industry, where creativity is often employed in the generation of new products and services.

The ‘creative climate’ is a term coined by Ekvall in defining how an organization's culture manifests itself in the creative output from its employees (Ekvall, 1996). Ten factors are listed which collectively describe the creative climate of the organization. These factors are: challenge, freedom, idea support, trust/openness, dynamism/liveliness, playfulness/humour, debates, conflicts, risk taking and idea time (Figure 1). With the exception of ‘conflicts’, each factor is viewed as having a positive impact on creative output. Together, these factors provide the basis of the ‘creative climate questionnaire’, a 50-question tool, developed by Ekvall, which has been supported by further studies (Isaksen & Lauer, 2002).

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Figure 1. Ekvall's Model of Creative Climate

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Independently, Amabile has developed a ‘componential theory of organizational creativity’ (Figure 2). This model recognizes that organizational creativity can be considered from the perspectives of the individual, the team and also the wider work environment (Amabile, 1997). This work has also culminated in an assessment tool; KEYS: assessing the climate for creativity, which takes the form of a 78-item questionnaire and is also supported by other authors who have validated the model (e.g., Taggar, 2002).

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Figure 2. Amabile's Componential Theory of Organizational Creativity

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Amabile's model comprises three key elements: resources, management practices and organizational motivation. Each of these elements interacts with one another and has an impact on the resulting level of innovation.

It is evident that there are overlaps and similarities between Amabile's elements of organizational creativity and the ten factors of Ekvall's creative climate. These are summarized in Table 1, with direct comparison between related themes, and how they are described by each author.

Table 1. Comparison of Themes from Amabile and Ekvall
ThemeAmabile's model (1997)Ekvall's model (1996)
TimeSufficient time to produce novel workThe amount of time people have for elaborating on new ideas
RisksOrientation towards risk . . . versus maintaining the status quoTolerance of uncertainty in the organization
ConflictsAbsence of political problems and ‘turf battles’Personal and emotional tensions
RewardsReward and recognition for creative workIdeas and suggestions [which] are received in an attentive and supportive way
Challenge[Individuals] are committed to the work they are doingPeople [who] are experiencing joy and meaningfulness in their job and therefore they invest much energy
Debate[Individuals] challenge each other's ideas in a constructive wayEncounters and clashes between viewpoints and ideas
FreedomAllowing procedural autonomyIndependence in behaviour exerted by the people in the organization

In addition to these two seminal works, others have also provided some insights into the factors which impact on the creative climate in firms. These are summarized below, and are compared directly with the two models already discussed.

A study to understand factors which enable teams to succeed in producing creative results (Rickards & Moger, 2000) led to the revision of the popular Tuckman and Jensen model for group development (Tuckman & Jensen, 1977). This work proposed that there are two main barriers which must be overcome to allow a team to produce exceptional creative performance. The research produced a list of seven factors (platform of understanding, shared vision, climate, resilience, idea owners, network activators and learning from experience). These further support the factors described by both Amabile and Ekvall.

Creative leadership is another topic addressed by contemporary literature. The ‘propulsion model of creative leadership’ (Sternberg, Kaufman & Pretz, 2004) defines three different kinds of leadership: leadership which accepts existing ways of doing things, leadership which challenges existing ways of doing things, and leadership which utilizes existing ways of doing things in new and unique ways. Each of the three kinds of leadership can then be further broken down into eight specific methods of exerting creative leadership. Each method may be appropriate for a different stage in the life of an organization. For example, if an organization is operating successfully and its long-term future appears secure, then maintaining its current paradigms may be the best option as opposed to trying to radically re-direct the organization. This work may provide more clarity for the dynamism/liveliness factor of Ekvall's Climate described as ‘the eventfulness of life in the organisation’ (Ekvall, 1996). It may also relate to the risk taking factor ‘the tolerance of uncertainty in the organisation’ (Ekvall, 1996).

The importance of communication and collaboration to the creative process and its resultant outcomes is discussed by Sonnenburg (2004). Four dimensions of a theoretical framework are presented:

  • • 
    Type of communication: the medium which members of a team use to communicate whether it be face to face, phone/videoconference or email/fax. The advantages of synchronous (at the same time) communication are highlighted. This maps to Ekvall's freedom factor, where ‘people make contacts and give and receive information’ (Ekvall, 1996), and also to Amabile's management practices which ‘is marked by clear planning and feedback [and] good communication between supervisor and the workgroup’ (Amabile, 1997).
  • • 
    Course of performance: relates to the actual process of producing innovative outcomes or products. The recommendation here is ‘to refresh the communication process . . . to use learning aids and creative techniques’ (Sonnenburg, 2004), thus providing a correlation to Amabile's creative thinking skills (Amabile, 1997).
  • • 
    Working style: is ‘the way in which participants' contributions come into the communication process’ and a creative working style is exemplified by ‘open communication’ (Sonnenburg, 2004). This corresponds to Amabile's organizational motivation, ‘open, active communication of information and ideas’ (Amabile, 1997). There is also a connection here to Ekvall through the openness factor: ‘everyone in the organisation dares to put forward ideas and opinions’ (Ekvall, 1996).
  • • 
    Problem nature and implication of solution: relates to the level of autonomy needed to allow the team to reach a satisfactory solution. Autonomy is a topic covered by Amabile's management practices (Amabile, 1997) and also by Ekvall's freedom factor (Ekvall, 1996).

This review has demonstrated that the holistic studies of individual (Amabile 1997; Sternberg, O'Hara & Lubart, 1997) and organizational (Ekvall, 1996; Amabile, 1997) creativity are generally well aligned with each other. Studies which address the details of aspects of creativity within firms (e.g. Rickards & Moger, 2000, Sonnenburg, 2004) also support the more general findings on organizational creativity.

The various conceptual representations of creativity have been individually validated through application in a range of organizations (Ekvall, 1996; Amabile, 1997; Sternberg, O'Hara & Lubart, 1997; Isaksen & Lauer, 2002; Sonnenburg, 2004). In particular, the models of Ekvall and Amabile are mutually reinforcing. However, no studies have attempted to gather data which would allow a direct comparison between these two models. This may, for instance, highlight whether one model is more robust than another, or might be more appropriate in different contexts.

Furthermore, these models generally result from research exploring firms, and have not explicitly looked at the creative industries. This provides a clear gap in current understanding, as firms within the creative industries should by their very nature exhibit creative practices and capabilities.

Research Approach

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Organizational Creativity
  5. Research Approach
  6. Results
  7. Conclusions
  8. References
  9. Appendices

This was an exploratory empirical evaluation of established theoretical models; the focus was on testing the theories and models proposed by previous studies. The study had two primary objectives: first, to explore the applicability of Amabile's and Ekvall's models of creative climate in creative organizations; and second, to explore the specific characteristics of the creative climate in these organizations.

The sequence of the research is illustrated in Figure 3. An initial deductive phase involving literature review and exploratory interviews resulted in the generation of a prototype questionnaire for evaluating creativity in creative firms, based on both Amabile's and Ekvall's models of organizational creativity. The questionnaire was used to gather data on the creative climate in 10 creative organizations, as summarized in Table 2. After gathering data using the questionnaire, senior managers or designers in five of the firms were subsequently interviewed in order to explore the results in context.

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Figure 3. Sequence of the Research

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Table 2. Case Companies
FirmSectorQuestionnaireInterview
Architecture AArchitectureYes 
Brand ABranding/GraphicsYesYes
Brand BBranding/GraphicsYes 
Brand CBranding/GraphicsYes 
Design AProduct/Industrial DesignYesYes
Design BProduct/Industrial DesignYesYes
Design CProduct/Industrial DesignYesYes
Design DProduct/Industrial DesignYesYes
Design EProduct/Industrial DesignYes 
Design FProduct/Industrial DesignYes 

Questionnaire Design

The concepts described in both Amabile's and Ekvall's models of organizational creativity were translated into a simple questionnaire. For each construct (e.g., explicit value of creativity in Amabile's model), current performance and perceived importance were scored using a simple Likert-type scale (Kidder & Judd, 1986), with anchor phrases at each extreme (Figure 4). The Likert-type scale enables respondents to score each construct anywhere along a continuum between the two extremes and enables a direct (numerical) comparison of the results from different firms.

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Figure 4. Example from Questionnaire

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In addition, respondents were asked to score the relative importance of all related constructs, using a constant sum question (Smith & Albaum, 2004). Respondents were asked to rate the relative importance of the concept, in comparison with others, by distributing ‘100 points’ amongst the various concepts. It was hypothesized that, in some instances, firms might perceive all constructs as highly important, and this relative measure would therefore enable the most important to be established. This piece of data was used as a weighting factor in analysing the results.

Each of Amabile's elements (organizational motivation, resources and management practices) was addressed on a separate page of the questionnaire and Ekvall's model was divided into two halves, each comprising five factors. This also allowed Ekvall's model to be split over two pages, with the first entitled ‘atmosphere for work’, and the second entitled ‘attitude to work’ (see Figure 5), as defined by the authors. In total, this resulted in 17 ‘questions’ for Amabile's model and 10 ‘questions’ for Ekvall's. It is acknowledged that this approach provides only a very rough approximation of the detail included in the original surveys. However, it is believed sufficient to enable a direct comparison of the core concepts of each and also allowed the results of each to be relatively easily compared and analysed (Gill & Jonson, 2002). The full questionnaire is reproduced in Appendix 1 (organizational creativity) and Appendix 2 (creative climate).

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Figure 5. Modified Ekvall Model

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The questionnaire was subject to a number of iterations based on feedback from preliminary interviews (Gill & Jonson, 2002). This allowed the layout and question style of the tool to be refined prior to its release to firms.

The questionnaire was sent by email to senior managers in leading creative agencies, allowing respondents to complete it in their own time and in privacy. As the questionnaire was to be completed independently, the phraseology and form of the questions were critical in reducing confusion and misinterpretation (Simsek & Veiga, 2000, 2001). Advanced notification and follow-up contacts were also established with respondents to improve the response rates (Simsek & Veiga 2000, 2001).

Semi-Structured Interviews

It is recognized as a limitation of this exploratory study that the sample size for responses to the questionnaire is small. This therefore limits the generalizability of the findings. To mitigate this limitation, follow-up interviews were conducted with five of the participating firms. These post-analysis interviews served several purposes. First, they allowed discussion regarding the usability, usefulness and accuracy of the questionnaire approach. Second, as the questionnaires had been completed independently, the subject's interpretation of the concepts was to some extent unknown. Thus the interview gave a chance to discuss any discrepancies found in the tool. The interview also enabled the results to be presented to the firm and hence discussion on how accurately the subject felt results from the model(s) represented creativity in their organization(s). Finally, the interviews enabled the overall findings to be discussed to establish the participant's views on the accuracy of the picture that emerged.

The interviews also provided the opportunity for open discussion on organizational creativity thus increasing the depth of practical understanding of the topic relative to the company. This proved beneficial to both the study and the organization, and parallels could be drawn with the dual goals of action research: to develop new theory in social science while providing a practical contribution to the industrial partner (Rapoport, 1970). The presentation of a ‘results document’ to the organization also enabled discussion on the way in which the results were presented.

The combination of data from the questionnaire and feedback from the interview led to confidence in the internal validity of the results. Since validity implies reliability (Gill & Jonson, 2002), a measure of the reliability of the results was also obtained.

Case Companies

Three discreet sectors were targeted from the creative industries defined by the UK Government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport: Industrial Design/Product Development, Architecture, and Branding/Graphic Design. These sectors were chosen because they provided a diverse spread of design process outputs, from websites through consumer products to buildings. In addition, all are within the core of the creative industries (Flew, 2002).

In total ten companies participated in the study at the questionnaire stage and five of these also agreed to a follow-up interview. To maintain the anonymity of the respondents, for the remainder of the study they will be referred to using the references given in Table 2. All of the respondents were either senior managers or senior designers in the respective firms, and thus were able to represent the perspective of the firm.

Analysis of Results

The initial stage of the analysis was to convert the data into numerical form. Responses on the Likert-type scales were scored on a continuum between 0 and 4. Thus, the response in Figure 6 represents a score of 3 points.

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Figure 6. Likert-type Scale Example

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Results were communicated to respondents using a modified radar chart to present the scores of each element (Figure 7). The shaded circle represented the ‘current performance’ of the construct, while the dashed outline of a circle represented the ‘perceived importance’ of the construct. This allows the simultaneous comparison of ‘current performance’ and ‘perceived importance’ on a single diagram. The size of the circles was determined by multiplying the score from the Likert-type scale, by a weighting factor corresponding to the score for ‘relative importance’. The result was then scaled linearly to fit maximum and minimum possible circle sizes for the five- or six-point star shape being used. Thus, the larger the circle, the more important the factor. In Figure 7, for example, a forward-facing strategy is perceived as important, but is a factor where the firm is under-performing.

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Figure 7. Element Radar Chart Example

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On the resulting graphic, if the shaded circle was larger than the dashed outline, the firm's performance was exceeding the associated importance. Conversely, if the shaded circle was smaller, the firm was underperforming relative to perceived importance. The calculations were done by hand and the graphics were each produced manually.

Results

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Organizational Creativity
  5. Research Approach
  6. Results
  7. Conclusions
  8. References
  9. Appendices

This section presents the results from the exploratory study, including questionnaire responses and also semi-structured interviews. It should be noted that these conclusions are drawn from a small sample, and it may not, therefore, be possible to generalize for all creative industries.

The aggregated responses from all of the participating companies enable a direct comparison between the two theoretical models (Ekvall's Creative Climate and Amabile's Organizational Creativity). For example, Figure 8 presents a direct comparison between results from all firms for the ‘resources’ elements of Amabile's model and the ‘attitude to work’ aspects of Ekvall's.

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Figure 8. Overall Result for Amabile's Resources Element and Ekvall's Attitude to Work

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The results provide some insight into how effectively each model represents the climate for creativity in the participating firms. Amabile's model contained 17 elements. Ekvall's creative climate model addresses organizational creativity at a slightly higher and more abstract level. With fewer factors to the model, the nature of each factor is much more open and inclusive. This made the model less ‘controversial’ to the respondents, with each of the factors being viewed as similarly important. This is seen in Figure 8, where there is less variation in the size of the circles.

In contrast, for Amabile's model, there was a greater variety of response in terms of perceived importance. This is also seen in Figure 8, where time to innovate and expertise are both considered to be more important in creative firms than either training or access to funds. This perhaps suggests that there may be a hierarchy of ‘critical’ and ‘peripheral’ factors in Amabile's model.

One firm (Design C) noted that, although the model of creative climate was more ‘agreeable’, the more detailed model of organizational creativity provided more valuable insights. In summary, the two alternative representations complemented each other well.

The results can be interpreted in two ways. It could be said that, due to the wider agreement on the overall importance of all the factors in Ekvall's model, that this model is more robust in its representation of organizational creativity. However, it could also be said that the uniformity expressed through Ekvall's model suggests that the factors are too broad and are therefore not producing as detailed or valid a representation of organizational creativity as Amabile's.

Feedback from the semi-structured interviews supported the view that the factors in Ekvall's model were perhaps too broad to completely capture organizational creativity but the combination of the models went some way to rectify this.

Sectoral Comparison: Organizational Creativity

The distribution of companies between sectors was not uniform. The product/industrial design sector responded well, with six firms. There were three responses from graphics/branding firms and only one response from an architecture practice. Hence, a robust comparison between all three sectors was not possible. The sector-level comparison was therefore limited to just the product/industrial design and branding/graphic design sectors. Here, the combined responses from all firms have been averaged, to enable a direct comparison.

  • • 
    Organizational motivation (Figure 9): There are some distinct similarities as well as clear differences between the sectors. Factors such as enthusiasm for employees scored comparably in both sectors and by all firms interviewed. This shows a common belief that, for a firm to be creative, it must profess its commitment to creativity through internal and external communications. The management systems factor scored more highly in product development than in branding firms. A possible explanation for this is that half of the product development firms were at least medium-sized enterprises, as defined by the EU, employing more than 50 staff. All of the branding firms were small enterprises, the result being that a large firm may have more explicitly defined management systems than a small firm which may operate more organically from the management perspective. This idea was developed through discussion with design firms C and A. Design firm A suggested that the resources invested (e.g., financial) in developing products would exceed those invested in graphic and brand development, hence the need for greater control through management systems.
  • • 
    Resources (Figure 10): Time to innovate scored highly in both sectors, as did staff expertise. Access to funds and training were consistently deemed of low importance and performance. The significant difference in the results, at this level, is that time to innovate was deemed to be an under-performing feature of the branding firms. In product development firms, both the importance and performance were correspondingly lower. This could be due to the average length of time for projects in each sector. Product development, especially of complex and technical products, tends to be completed over (relatively) long periods of time. In graphics, the pace of the industry is a lot greater resulting in less time for each individual project. The result is that providing time to innovate for shorter projects is less easily accomplished, a concept suggested by Branding firm A. The low importance placed on access to funds was discussed during the interviews and it transpired that the wording of the question had been misleading. The ‘high-end’ of the scale; ‘Unlimited funds are made available to all members of the organization’, was deemed too ‘free’ to be realistic in a business context by many of the companies (Design firms A, B and C). In some cases, a small ‘project fund’ was available to all team members. The fund was accessible through informal discussion with the project supervisor. In other cases (Design firms A, B, C and D and Branding firm A), a proposal could also be submitted to access a substantial fund for purchase requiring higher capital investment. This procedure was more time-consuming and required more involvement through the vetting process than the ‘project fund’.
  • • 
    Management practices (Figure 11): Both sectors place significant importance on skill-based team selection and definition of goals. Conversely, project autonomy and personality-based team selection were viewed as less important. The greater value placed on skill-based team selection by product development firms was a topic discussed with Design firm C. Due to the multi-disciplinary nature of product development, especially in technical products, it was thought that choosing the correct team was a particularly critical factor and possibly more so than in the field of branding where skills are potentially more transferable. The same was true for the greater importance of definition of goals. As the goals for a product development project may span various departments, having a clear understanding of project requirements is essential, especially where the outcome may be reliant on other departments/members of the team. Personality-based team selection was a less valued factor. It was, however, considered more important by product development than branding firms. Design firm C noted that, again, the relative sizes of the firms might impact on this result. In a smaller firm, there may be little opportunity to select teams based on both their skills and their personality. The low value placed on project autonomy was a surprise as it is a factor suggested by many authors on the topic of creativity (West, 2002; Bailyn, 1985; Paolillo & Brown, 1978). However, the interviews highlighted ambiguity due to the style of question used. Autonomy can be seen to operate on two levels: complete autonomy and process autonomy. A process autonomy analogy would be telling someone which mountain to climb but not how they must climb it. Complete autonomy would be allowing someone to choose which mountain to climb. Project autonomy should probably refer specifically to process autonomy as opposed to the provision of complete autonomy. This is reinforced by Amabile (1998) who describes ‘giving people autonomy concerning the means but not necessarily the ends’.
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Figure 9. Amabile's Organizational Motivation Element

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Figure 10. Amabile's Resources Element

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Figure 11. Amabile's Management Practices Element

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Sectoral Comparison: Creative Climate

Accepting the same caution on the relatively small sample size, the results from the Creative Climate model were also compared for both the product/industrial design and graphic/branding design sectors.

The Creative Climate model was divided into two sections for the purpose of the questionnaire. These were attitude to work and atmosphere for work, one focusing more on the individuals' interaction with their workplace (attitude to work) and the other addressing more group and environmental factors (atmosphere for work).

  • 1
    Attitude to work (Figure 12): This produced similar results between the two sectors and for all of the firms surveyed. However, some specific factors featured strongly while others were deemed less significant. The two strongest features, common to both sectors, were freedom and idea support. The strong importance placed on freedom could be seen to reflect the need for autonomous working to promote creativity. This was a factor not expressed clearly through Amabile's model due to misinterpretation of the project autonomy question (see above). Idea support was viewed as highly important by both sectors. This produced an interesting result as idea support could be seen as a combination of Amabile's supervisor support (which rated of average importance) and enthusiasm for employees (which was regarded as being highly important). A final point made by Design firm B, and reinforced by Design firm C, was the difficulty in accurately assessing the challenge factor. Since it related directly to an individual employee's feelings, it was questionable whether a valid result could be obtained from one individual or whether it would vary between departments. An alternative suggestion was to collect results from a range of staff from each department and to average the results for each department.
  • 2
    Atmosphere for work (Figure 13): This category resulted in relatively uniform responses across the five factors. Four of the five factors: trust/openness, dynamism/liveliness, playfulness/humour and debates were rated highly for their importance to creativity. The only factor generally considered to be less important than the others was conflicts. Design firm B suggested that real conflicts were only rarely experienced, and as a result this factor had a low impact on creativity. Although it was said that conflicts were infrequent, when they did occur, the effect was viewed as very detrimental to the creativity and productivity of the team.
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Figure 12. Ekvall's Attitude to Work

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Figure 13. Ekvall's Atmosphere for Work

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Conclusions

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Organizational Creativity
  5. Research Approach
  6. Results
  7. Conclusions
  8. References
  9. Appendices

The first goal of the research was to determine which model, if either, best represented organizational creativity in creative organizations. Based on the results from this study, there is a strong and mutually reinforcing relationship between dominant models posed by Amabile and Ekvall. It was felt that Amabile's model was less appropriate to all of the firms, but that the different perspectives taken by the two models complemented each other well and thus the combination of both models provided the best representation of organizational creativity.

Ekvall's model, although more generally agreeable, was felt to be presented in terms which were too broad to generate specific and meaningful insights about creativity in the sample firms. Amabile's model, on the other hand, is built around the detail and process level and thus proves less generalizable.

In comparing these two models, it was also possible to consider the relative importance of the various factors in creative firms. As the sectors and firms generally agreed on the importance of each factor, some were consistently highly valued while others were deemed less valuable by the firms. It was evident that several of the factors, whilst appropriate in a context where creativity is non-routine, are less applicable in an environment where creativity is an everyday activity. These include issues such as conflicts, idea time, team selection, access to funds, management systems, and training. The different emphasis on importance suggests that there may be a hierarchy of factors, and understanding this hierarchy presents an opportunity for further work, to explore organizational creativity in different sectors.

Another objective of this study was to investigate whether the characteristics of organizational creativity varied in different sectors of the creative industries. From the data collected it was found that there were similarities in the results from branding and product development from whom the majority of the results were acquired. However, there was also evidence of distinct differences between the sectors which related to the nature of their work such as project structure and outputs.

These findings (the relative importance of the various factors; the applicability of the competing models; and sectoral differences) result in a contribution to existing theory. They suggest that the basic models of organizational creativity may not necessarily be generalizable and that a more contingent approach would be beneficial. In different sectors, it is likely that different factors will be more important. The work could be taken further by validation through further utilization of the questionnaire and comparison of the responses to common features of each model. Although the study was small in scale, the implications of the results could be significant. The suggestion that the unified model of organizational creativity could be altered to suit each industry is original. Previous research has not attempted to identify or address this concept.

An indirect contribution to practice as a result of this work was an original operationalization of both Amabile's and Ekvall's models which can be applied quickly in firms. The questionnaire was developed iteratively through application in the case companies and worked as a simple audit tool, to enable self-reflection. By combining both models, the analysis benefits from the two perspectives. However, it is acknowledged that this simple tool is significantly less robust than Amabile's and Ekvall's more detailed audit tools. There is also opportunity for further revision in the phrasing of specific questions which have been highlighted as being either ambiguous or in some way misleading. An example of this was the debates factor. The statement read ‘There are regular clashes between viewpoints/ideas’. Design firm C felt that the word ‘clashes’ was not appropriate as it had connotations with conflict which, in this context, is defined as the opposite of debate.

Limitations

The primary limitation of this work, which is acknowledged, is the small sample size. The authors are therefore cautious about presenting the findings as generalizable for the whole creative industries. However, the data does enable some initial conclusions to be drawn, and points towards some interesting findings.

By narrowing the study to use existing conceptual models in a new sector, there is the chance that ‘new’ factors influencing creativity might have been overlooked. In part, this was addressed by conducting follow-up interviews, to establish the validity and completeness of the models under discussion.

The single respondent nature of the study may have introduced some bias. To address this, two firms provided responses from two different members of staff. This allowed a comparison to be made between the results, and the effect the individual respondents were having on the results to be shown. The results from one firm were very cohesive. The results from the other firm were less so. This could have been because the two respondents were based in offices in different countries. The conclusion here is that the unique perspective of each respondent did influence results with this effect being greater for larger firms and those with multiple sites. It was also felt that some of the factors could not be accurately assessed by one individual, specifically, the challenge factor of the model of Creative Climate. Thus it may be more effective for a small team to complete the audit of their department. This would reduce the personal influence on the results and provide better results for factors such as challenge, which cannot be easily assessed by one individual.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Organizational Creativity
  5. Research Approach
  6. Results
  7. Conclusions
  8. References
  9. Appendices
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James Moultrie (jm239@cam.ac.uk) is a Senior Lecturer in Innovation and Design Management. His research interests seek to improve the utilization of design skills and increase design/innovation capability at project, firm and national levels. James is a Chartered Mechanical Engineer (IMechE) and has many years industrial experience as a project manager, senior engineer and marketing product manager. In 2000, he was awarded a ‘Scientific and Technical Academy Award’ and an Emmy for work on a range of lenses for professional 35mm cinematography.

Alasdair Young is an engineer with DCA Design International. As a graduate in Product Design Engineering, and with a Masters in Industrial Systems, Manufacture and Management, his experience and education span the breadth of the product development process. Alasdair's interests involve increasing industrial awareness and acceptance for creative processes. His current work involves technical development of innovative products across a range of industry sectors.

Appendices

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Organizational Creativity
  5. Research Approach
  6. Results
  7. Conclusions
  8. References
  9. Appendices

Appendix 1: Questionnaire – Based on Amabile's Organizational Creativity

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Appendix 1: continued

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Appendix 2: Questionnaire – Based on Ekvall's Creative Climate

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