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How to Kill Creativity - Amabile

How to Kill Creativity - Amabile - Henry-3442-02.qxd 6:02...

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18 When I consider all the organizations I have studied and worked with over the past 22 years, there can be no doubt: creativity gets killed much more often than it gets supported. For the most part, this isn’t because managers have a vendetta against cre- ativity. On the contrary, most believe in the value of new and useful ideas. However, creativity is undermined unintentionally every day in work environments that were established – for entirely good reasons – to maximize business imperatives such as co-ordination, productivity, and control. Managers cannot be expected to ignore business imperatives, of course. But in working toward these imperatives, they may be inadvertently designing organisations that systematically crush creativity. My research shows that it is possible to develop the best of both worlds: organisations in which business imperatives are attended to and creativity flourishes. Building such organisations, however, requires us to under- stand precisely what kinds of managerial practices foster creativity – and which kill it. The three components of creativity Within every individual, creativity is a function of three components: expertise, creative-thinking skills, and motivation. Can managers influence these components? The answer is an emphatic yes – for better and for worse – through workplace practices and conditions. Expertise is, in a word, knowledge – technical, procedural and intellectual. Creative- thinking skills determine how flexibly and imaginatively people approach problems. Do their solutions up-end the status quo? Do they persevere through dry spells? Not all motivation is created equal. An inner passion to solve the problem at hand leads to solutions far more creative than external rewards, such as money. This component – called intrinsic motivation – is the one that can most immediately be influenced by the work environment. How to Kill Creativity Teresa Amabile 2 2 Source: T. Amabile (1998) Harvard Business Review , September, 77–87. Henry-3442-02.qxd 7/12/2006 6:02 PM Page 18
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2 How to Kill Creativity 19 Managing creativity [Amabile’s research has identified six general categories of managerial practice that affect creativity. These are challenge, freedom, resources, work-group features, supervisory encour- agement, and organizational support.] Taking the six categories that have emerged from our research in turn, let’s explore what managers can do to enhance creativity – and what often happens instead. It is important to note that creativity-killing practices are seldom the work of lone managers. Such practices usually are systemic – so widespread that they are rarely questioned. Challenge Of all the things managers can do to stimulate creativity, perhaps the most efficacious is the deceptively simple task of matching people with the right assignments. Managers can match people with jobs that play to their expertise and their skills in creative thinking, and ignite intrinsic motivation. Perfect matches stretch employees’ abilities.
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