Creativity is the production of new and useful ideas (Amabile, 1988).
An idea is new when is unique in relation to other ideas that currently exist in the organization, and it is useful if it has a potential value, direct or indirectly, for the organization, in the short, or the long term (Shalley & Gilson, 2004).
As creativity implies idea generation, it is considered an innovation precursor and, in turn, innovation includes the implementation of these ideas.
Creativity in the organizational context
In organizations, creative ideas generation can be part of employees’ work (for example in the case of RD jobs), or it can be seen as an extra role in employee behavior (for example when an organization requests suggestions or ideas to its employees).
Related to the demands of work, Unsworth (2001) distinguishes between high and low creativity requirement jobs. On the other hand, it is important to highlight that, in function of employees’ attitude towards creativity and their displayed behavior, the organizational efficacy can increase or decrease.
Regarding the individual, it is considered that creativity has three dimensions: cognitive, not cognitive, and motivational, but despite personal dimensions, the environment plays a principal role in creative behavior, in comparison with other individual factors, sometimes overvalued, like talent.
Asynchrony and conflict
There is a factor related to environmental influences and creativity improvement in organizational contexts: asynchrony. Some authors use synonyms like tension, conflict, dissonance, or imbalance.
Asynchrony is useful to organizational creativity because, according to some authors, innovation and conflict are concomitants.
West (2002) argues that if a new way to do something is introduced in an organization, and it does not generate conflict (that is, there are no disagreements about the content or the innovative process), or there is no resistance from members towards innovation, then such innovation is not something really new, or does not offer a significant contribution to the organization.
Innovation always threatens the status quo, and, for that, conflicts are generated.
Benefits from conflict and asynchrony
It seems there are several benefits from conflict and asynchrony according to the results reached in various studies performed in the workplace.
Some authors advocate for promoting these elements in organizations if we want to cause creativity emerges.
Thompson (1965) complained against conditions for creativity in a bureaucracy led by a mono-critical social structure that pursues productivity and control. He argues that if we want to innovate, that kind of structure must be changed, and suggests one more flexible and decentralized that allows more freedom of communication, rotation of positions, incentive system modification, and other changes in management.
Other authors found that conflict improves or gets worse creativity, depending on the situation and people. The perception about the conflict improved creativity in coincident tasks with personal orientation, while creativity decreased if the task was out of that orientation.
In any case, there are still few studies about asynchrony and conflict and their effects on creativity, so any conclusion about this question will not be based on enough pieces of evidence for now.
Amabile, M. T. (1988). A model of creativity and innovation in organizations. In B. M. Staw & L. L. Cummings (Eds). Research in organizational behavior. 10, 123–167.
Thompson, V.A. (1965). Bureaucracy and Innovation . Administrative Science Quarterly. 10 (1), 1-20
Shalley, C., & Gilson, L. (2004). What leaders need to know: A review of social and contextual factors that can foster or hinder creativity. Leadership Quarterly, 15(1), 33–53.
Unsworth, K. (2001). Unpacking Creativity. Academy of Management Review, 26(2), 289–297.
West, M. A. 2002b. Ideas are ten a penny: It’s team implementation not idea generation that counts. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 51, 411-424.