Theory of Organizational Creativity

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Alternate name(s)


Main dependent construct(s)/factor(s)

Organizational creativity

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.

Originating author(s)

Woodman, R. W., Sawyer, J. E., & Griffin, R. W. (1993). Toward a theory of organizational creativity. Academy of management review, 18(2), 293-321.

Seminal articles

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.

Originating area

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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