Two Ways to Activate Employee Creativity
How is Creativity Defined?Creativity involves:
- The number of ideas someone can generate (called fluency)
- The uniqueness of the ideas (i.e., originality)
The Influence of EmotionsMoods and emotions are known to influence creativity, although in a more complicated way than people may realize. Conventional thought holds that to boost creativity, positive moods and emotions should be increased while negative moods and emotions should be decreased. However, beyond being positive or negative, affective states can also be characterized as activating or deactivating. Activating states increase arousal while deactivating states decrease arousal. This distinction appears to affect creativity levels. Specifically, activating emotions increase creative behavior while deactivating emotions do not. The table below categorizes different emotions depending on whether they are positive or negative and activating or deactivating:
|Happy, Elated, Excited
|Angry, Fearful, Worried
Paths to CreativityBoth positive and negative activating emotions lead to increased creativity, but they do so in different ways. Happiness and excitement increase a person’s cognitive flexibility, which can increase both fluency and originality. Cognitive flexibility involves creating ideas that span several different categories or perspectives. Negative activating emotions such as fear may increase persistence and focus, which can lead to more creative ideas but at a cost of longer time spent on trying to be creative.
Implications for PracticeThese results suggest that a workplace climate that promotes activating emotions may lead to increased creativity. Some steps that can be taken to promote these types of emotions include:
- Increase employee engagement and satisfaction at work by such actions as giving employees more voice in procedures and making jobs feel meaningful to them.
- Promote trusting and cooperative work relationships through teamwork, mentoring, and developing a positive workplace culture.
- Utilize negative activating emotions when necessary by promoting persistent effort to meet difficult organizational and work goals.
- Encourage a sense of urgency to promote excitement by emphasizing the immediate nature of and energy required for completing a project.
- Reduce organizational constraints that can discourage employees, such as inadequate communication, unnecessary paperwork, or overly restrictive procedures that interfere with work and motivation.
- Aim for increasing positive rather than negative activating emotional states when creative ideas are needed quickly.
DeGarmo GroupThis was a summary of the research and practice implications from: De Dreu, C. K. W., Baas, M., & Nijstad, B. A. (2008). Hedonic tone and activation level in the mood-creativity link: Toward a dual pathway to creativity model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 739-756.