Theory of Organizational Creativity
Main dependent construct(s)/factor(s)
Main independent construct(s)/factor(s)
Individual, group and organizational characteristics
Concise description of theory
The theory of organizational creativity was developed by Woodman, Sawyer, and Griffin (1993). They define organizational creativity as “the creation of a valuable, useful new product, service, idea, procedure, or process by individuals working together in a complex social system”. According to this theory, organizational creativity provides a key to the understanding of organizational effectiveness and survival. It is a function of individual characteristics, group characteristics, and organizational characteristics. Individual characteristics consist of cognitive abilities, personality, intrinsic motivation, and knowledge. Group characteristics consist of norms, cohesiveness, size, diversity, roles, task and problem-solving approaches. Organizational characteristics consist of culture, resources, rewards, strategy, structure, and technology.
The complex interaction between individual, group and organizational characteristics creates a context known as the “creative situation” within which individual and group creative behaviors are played out. A creative situation is, therefore, the “sum total of social and environmental (contextual) influences on creative behavior.” Creative behavior, on the other hand, is a complex person-situation interaction influenced by past as well as current events. Thus, the creative process of an organization is influenced by creative situations along with individual and group creative behaviors within an organization. This is a multilevel, interactionist model describing organizational creativity as a complex interplay of individual creativity, group creativity, and organizational creativity that has an impact on the creative process and, therefore, on the creative product. External influences such as intra organizational influences, as well as intraindividual factors, are included in this theory.
Diagram/schematic of theory
Find diagram here.
Woodman, R. W., Sawyer, J. E., & Griffin, R. W. (1993). Toward a theory of organizational creativity. Academy of management review, 18(2), 293-321.
Amabile, T. M. (1988). A model of creativity and innovation in organizations. Research in organizational behavior, 10(1), 123-167.
Amabile, T. M., Conti, R., Coon, H., Lazenby, J., & Herron, M. (1996). Assessing the work environment for creativity. Academy of management journal, 39(5), 1154-1184.
Barron, F., & Harrington, D. M. (1981). Creativity, intelligence, and personality. Annual review of psychology, 32(1), 439-476.
Borghini, S. (2005). Organizational creativity: breaking equilibrium and order to innovate. Journal of Knowledge Management, 9(4), 19-33.
Brown, R. T. (1989). Creativity. In Handbook of creativity (pp. 3-32). Springer, Boston, MA.
Drazin, R., Glynn, M. A., & Kazanjian, R. K. (1999). Multilevel theorizing about creativity in organizations: A sensemaking perspective. Academy of management review, 24(2), 286-307.
Plucker, J. A., & Renzulli, J. S. (1999). Psychometric approaches to the study of human creativity. Handbook of creativity, 35, 61. Sternberg, R. J. (Ed.). (1999). Handbook of creativity. Cambridge University Press.
psychology, sociology, organizational behavior
Level of analysis
Individual, group and organizational
Links to WWW sites describing theory
Links from this theory to other theories
Explicit–Implicit Interaction (EII) theory of creativity, Honing theory, Cattell–Horn–Carroll theory, Investment theory of creativity
IS articles that use the theory
Cooper, R. B. (2000). Information technology development creativity: A case study of attempted radical change. Mis Quarterly, 245-276.
Couger, J. D., Higgins, L. F., & McIntyre, S. C. (1993). (Un) structured creativity in information systems organizations. Mis Quarterly, 17(4).
Dean, D. L., Hender, J., Rodgers, T., & Santanen, E. (2006). Identifying good ideas: constructs and scales for idea evaluation. Journal of Association for Information Systems, 7(10), 646-699.
Elam, J. J., & Mead, M. (1990). Can software influence creativity? Information Systems Research, 1(1), 1-22.
Garfield, M. J., Taylor, N. J., Dennis, A. R., & Satzinger, J. W. (2001). Modifying paradigms—Individual differences, creativity techniques, and exposure to ideas in group idea generation. Information Systems Research, 12(3), 322-333.
Massetti, B. (1996). An empirical examination of the value of creativity support systems on idea generation. MIS quarterly, 83-97.
Satzinger, J. W., Garfield, M. J., & Nagasundaram, M. (1999). The creative process: The effects of group memory on individual idea generation. Journal of Management Information Systems, 15(4), 143-160.
Sidorova, A., Evangelopoulos, N., Valacich, J. S., & Ramakrishnan, T. (2008). Uncovering the intellectual core of the information systems discipline. Mis Quarterly, 467-482.
Tiwana, A., & Mclean, E. R. (2005). Expertise integration and creativity in information systems development. Journal of Management Information Systems, 22(1), 13-43.
Vandenbosch, B., & Higgins, C. (1996). Information acquisition and mental models: An investigation into the relationship between behavior and learning. Information Systems Research, 7(2), 198-214.
Von Alan, R. H., March, S. T., Park, J., & Ram, S. (2004). Design science in information systems research. MIS quarterly, 28(1), 75-105.
Wierenga, B., & Van Bruggen, G. H. (1998). The dependent variable in research into the effects of creativity support systems: Quality and quantity of ideas. MIS quarterly, 81-87.
Christina Sanchita Shah, Doctoral Student at Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, India
Date last updated
22nd November 2019
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