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When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives: A Field Study of Problem Solving at Work

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Abstract

T his paper introduces a model of collective creativity that explains how the locus of creative problem solving shifts, at times, from the individual to the interactions of a collective. The model is grounded in observations, interviews, informal conversations, and archival data gathered in intensive field studies of work in professional service firms. The evidence suggests that although some creative solutions can be seen as the products of individual insight, others should be regarded as the products of a momentary collective process. Such collective creativity reflects a qualitative shift in the nature of the creative process, as the comprehension of a problematic situation and the generation of creative solutions draw from—and reframe—the past experiences of participants in ways that lead to new and valuable insights. This research investigates the origins of such moments, and builds a model of collective creativity that identifies the precipitating roles played by four types of social interaction: help seeking, help giving, reflective reframing, and reinforcing. Implications of this research include shifting the emphasis in research and management of creativity from identifying and managing creative individuals to understanding the social context and developing interactive approaches to creativity, and from a focus on relatively constant contextual variables to the alignment of fluctuating variables and their precipitation of momentary phenomena.
OrganizationScience
Vol. 17, No. 4, July–August 2006, pp. 484–500
issn 1047-7039 !eissn 1526-5455 !06 !1704 !0484
informs®
doi 10.1287/orsc.1060.0200
© 2006 INFORMS
When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives:
A Field Study of Problem Solving at Work
Andrew B. Hargadon, Beth A. Bechky
Graduate School of Management, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616
{abhargadon@ucdavis.edu, babechky@ucdavis.edu}
This paper introduces a model of collective creativity that explains how the locus of creative problem solving shifts,
at times, from the individual to the interactions of a collective. The model is grounded in observations, interviews,
informal conversations, and archival data gathered in intensive field studies of work in professional service firms. The
evidence suggests that although some creative solutions can be seen as the products of individual insight, others should
be regarded as the products of a momentary collective process. Such collective creativity reflects a qualitative shift in the
nature of the creative process, as the comprehension of a problematic situation and the generation of creative solutions
draw from—and reframe—the past experiences of participants in ways that lead to new and valuable insights. This research
investigates the origins of such moments, and builds a model of collective creativity that identifies the precipitating roles
played by four types of social interaction: help seeking, help giving, reflective reframing, and reinforcing. Implications
of this research include shifting the emphasis in research and management of creativity from identifying and managing
creative individuals to understanding the social context and developing interactive approaches to creativity, and from a focus
on relatively constant contextual variables to the alignment of fluctuating variables and their precipitation of momentary
phenomena.
Key words: creativity; social cognition; problem solving; innovation
Introduction
Francis Jehl, one of Thomas Edison’s longtime assis-
tants, once explained that, “Edison is in reality a col-
lective noun and means the work of many men.” He
was referring to the group of engineers who worked
together and with Edison in the one-room laboratory in
Menlo Park (Millard 1990). However, while individuals
often acknowledge the collective nature of their creative
accomplishments, research on creativity has centered
primarily on the individual. Kurtzberg and Amabile
(2001), for example, recently summarized the state of
creativity research:
In all of the [current] approaches, the focus has rested
squarely on the individual, highlighting individual cog-
nitive processing, stable individual difference, and the
effects of the external environment on the individual. Rel-
atively little attention has been paid to team level creative
synergy, in which ideas are generated by groups instead
of being generated by one mind. (p. 285)
Without denying the role of individual contributions,
is it possible to recognize moments when the creative
insight emerges not within a single individual, but rather
across the interactions of multiple participants in the
process? This paper presents research that studied those
moments in organizations when creative insights result
from collective rather than individual efforts, and where
no individual insight is by itself responsible for solving
the problem.
What turns collections of creative individuals into cre-
ative collectives, where particular interactions yield cre-
ative insights, yet those insights cannot be attributed
to particular individuals? An answer to this question is
important because the need for individual creative genius
is steadily being displaced in organizations. In today’s
rapidly changing environments, the complexity of prob-
lems requires solutions that combine the knowledge,
efforts, and abilities of people with diverse perspectives
(Brown and Eisenhardt 1998, Eisenhardt 1990). When
individuals do not have the necessary expertise, abil-
ity, or motivation to generate creative solutions alone,
they sometimes find ways, through moments of collec-
tive effort, to produce creative outcomes.
This paper focuses on those moments of collective
creativity and the factors that precipitate them. Such an
approach differs from the existing research on creativ-
ity and innovation along two dimensions. Rather than
focusing on the group and organizational variables that
make up the ongoing context for creativity, this per-
spective recognizes the fleeting coincidence of behaviors
that triggers moments when creative insights emerge.
And rather than viewing this eureka moment as the sole
province of individual cognition, this perspective focuses
on those insights that emerge in the interactions between
individuals.
The literature on creativity in organizations has, for ex-
ample, generated significant understanding of the effect
484
Hargadon and Bechky: When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives
Organization Science 17(4), pp. 484–500, © 2006 INFORMS 485
of ongoing group and organizational context on indi-
vidual creativity (Amabile 1983, 1995), but is less
concerned with action and interaction at the collec-
tive level. Research on creativity and cognition focuses
on the moments of individual insight and, similarly,
does not address the phenomenon at the collective level
(Sternberg 1999, Gentner and Markman 1997). Finally,
the literature on innovation primarily explores the cre-
ative process at the collective level of organizations,
yet is largely concerned with the ongoing organizational
context associated with collective outputs and neglects
those moments when creative insights occur. By con-
trast, this paper explores the intersection between the
momentary (rather than the ongoing) and the collective
(rather than the individual) aspects of creativity—those
moments when creative insights result from collective,
rather than individual, efforts.
The role of such moments of collective creativity is
evident in the following example from Design Con-
tinuum, one of the firms in our field study. In 1988,
Reebok hired Design Continuum to develop a success-
ful response to the introduction of the Nike Air line of
basketball shoes. Rather than develop a product design
that was similar to Nike’s concept, Design Continuum
created the Pump shoe, a form-fitting shoe that worked
because of an inflatable air bladder built into its sides.
This idea first emerged in a brainstorming meeting when
one of the designers, who had previously designed an
inflatable splint, suggested that by building ankle sup-
port into a basketball shoe such splints might prevent
injuries. Another participant, who had worked on hos-
pital equipment before, recognized that existing med-
ical IV bags could be modified to provide the oddly
shaped air bladders that would make this “splint-in-a-
shoe” concept work. During a subsequent brainstorming
meeting with several other designers, who had worked
with diagnostic instruments (and the little pumps, tub-
ing, and valve components that made up those products),
a solution emerged for how to inflate and deflate the shoe
easily. In its first year, the Reebok Pump shoe accounted
for over $1 billion in revenue in the highly competitive
athletic-shoe market and gained wide praise in the busi-
ness press for its creativity.
The series of events that created the Reebok Pump
shoe idea at Design Continuum illustrates the collective
moments of the creative process observable within orga-
nizations. Within the project team, a few people knew
about the client’s demands, another knew about inflat-
able splints, another about IV bags, and others about
pumps. The social interactions within these brainstorms
enabled connecting these ideas across members of the
organization. Only during these momentary interactions
did the design team come to recognize how their dis-
parate knowledge of inflatable splints, IV bags, valves,
pumps, and other useful ideas could be relevant to
designing a better basketball shoe.
In studies of creativity, however, we rarely look at—
let alone for—such fleeting moments. For this reason,
we explored such moments through a field study of cre-
ativity in organizations. The model is grounded in obser-
vations of work, interviews, informal conversations, and
archival data gathered in intensive field studies of work
in six professional service organizations. Analysis of the
data from these studies identifies four interrelating activ-
ities that, together, appear to precipitate moments of col-
lective creativity: help seeking, help giving, reflective
reframing, and reinforcing. These activities constitute an
alternative framework for understanding and managing
the creative process within organizations—one that shifts
the focus away from the relatively stable contextual vari-
ables that surround creative individuals and to the behav-
ioral influences on the momentary interactions between
people.
Creativity in Organizations
To investigate collective creativity as a distinct phe-
nomenon that emerges in interactions, we adopt the
perspective that creative solutions are built from
the recombination of existing ideas (Amabile 1988,
Van de Ven 1986, Weick 1979, Hargadon and Sutton
1997). Rather than focusing on those aspects of the cre-
ative insight that represent the ex nihilo generation of
new and valuable ideas, this perspective looks at how
creative moments represent the confluence of old ideas.
By focusing on the creative insight as a confluence of
old ideas, we consider how individuals may contribute
discrete “old” ideas within a particular social interac-
tion, and observe how the “creative” value of those
ideas evolves through their combination—confluence—
with others.
While the field of psychology provides insights into
individual creativity within organizations, this research
has traditionally focused closely on the individual
insight. The perspective of creativity as the conflu-
ence of an individual’s traits, behaviors, and motiva-
tions remains a central assumption of modern creativity
research (Sternberg 1999). As a result, the study of cre-
ativity in organizational settings predominantly focuses
on the ongoing contextual influences that shape individ-
ual creative output (Amabile 1983, 1995; Csikszentmi-
halyi 1988; Drazin et al. 1999; Oldham and Cummings
1996; Woodman et al. 1993). For example, Woodman
et al. (1993) outline an interactionist model that nests
individual creativity within the group, which “consti-
tutes the social context in which the creative behavior
occurs” (p. 303). While this long tradition provides evi-
dence of the ongoing influences of group context on
individual creative behavior, it stops short of describ-
ing how supraindividual creativity emerges in interac-
tions to become a distinct and collective problem-solving
phenomenon.
Hargadon and Bechky: When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives
486 Organization Science 17(4), pp. 484–500, © 2006 INFORMS
Research by cognitive psychologists, in contrast, of-
fers potentially useful insights into how the creative pro-
cess happens in the moments when individuals solve
problems that may be applied to the collective level
(Gentner and Gentner 1983; Gentner and Markman
1997; Reeves and Weisberg 1993, 1994). This research
describes how individuals facing problematic situations
find solutions through a process of analogical reason-
ing, of trying to make sense of a new situation (the tar-
get analog) by relating it to a more familiar one (the
source analog). Analogical problem solving occurs when
an individual recognizes similarities in the new situa-
tion to old problems (and their solutions) that he or she
has learned in the past. Transferring these existing solu-
tions from old problems provides a solution to the new
problem. This research helps us understand the momen-
tary processes of individual creativity, yet there is no
guarantee that individuals will use their past knowledge,
let alone the appropriate past knowledge, to generate
novel and creative solutions. To arrive at creative insights
requires actively reframing situations in ways that trigger
more distant searches for solutions (Schank and Abelson
1977). This is because the same mechanisms that allow
individuals to make sense of novel situations in terms
of old ones often encourage them to recall more recent,
familiar, or expected ideas and, as a result, to misinter-
pret new situations as familiar old ones rather than see
them as opportunities for creative insights (Lave 1988,
Weick 1995). Thus, finding novel solutions is inher-
ently linked to the issue of defining problems—which
definition of the problem is recalled identifies which
set of solutions is considered relevant (Getzels 1975).
However, because problems often arrive in organizations
rooted in given contexts, individuals often have trouble
reframing on their own.
Organizations may therefore benefit when people
come together to collectively work on defining and solv-
ing problems, and we need to deepen our understand-
ing of how such collective problem solving happens.
Existing field studies have shown that solving creative
problems collectively in organizations relies on connect-
ing past experiences to the problems of current situa-
tions. For example, Hargadon (2002, 1998; Hargadon
and Sutton 1997) describes how organizations that span
multiple industries are able to generate creative ideas
by gaining access to ideas in one domain and applying
them in others. Building on the theory of organizational
memory (Walsh and Ungson 1991), these papers explain
how these firms’ innovative accomplishments result from
their work practices that transfer ideas over time and
across projects. Similarly, Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995)
describe innovation as taking place in the communi-
cation and translation of knowledge from the individ-
ual to the organization. However, while these studies
focus on collective creativity as the confluence of exist-
ing ideas, they do not explore the nature and origins of
those particular moments when such connections occur.
Thus, to provide a parallel for how the creative process
unfolds, both in organizational context and across rather
than within individuals, we look to the literature on col-
lective cognition.
Collective Cognition and the Creative Moment
Recent theoretical and empirical work has developed the
notion of collective cognition in organizations (Meindl
et al. 1996, Thompson et al. 1999, Hutchins 1991) to
explain supraindividual cognitive processes. Weick and
Roberts (1993), for example, outline the concept of
collective mind as a means for understanding how indi-
viduals working together perform effectively in high-
reliability organizations, such as aircraft carrier flight
decks (see also Weick et al. 1999). That perspective
requires a focus that is “at once on individuals and the
collective, since only individuals can contribute to a col-
lective mind, but a collective mind is distinct from an
individual because it inheres in the pattern of interrelated
activities among many people” (p. 360). High-reliability
organizations are characterized by their emphasis on
avoiding errors rather than pursuing efficiencies, where
remaining mindful to deviations from expected events
helps organizations respond rapidly to potentially haz-
ardous problems. However, a perspective of collective
mind may also help explain highly creative organi-
zations, where the emphasis on novel solutions also
requires mindful exploration.
While there is potential for moments of collective
mind to emerge in any group, Weick and Roberts (1993)
identify the critical role of heedful interrelating, the
mindful engagement of individuals in the social interre-
lations of the organization, for shaping the nature and
extent to which collective cognition occurs in a particu-
lar moment. Mindfulness describes the amount of atten-
tion and effort that individuals allocate to a particular
task or interaction. Participation in group interactions,
as a result, becomes a product not of membership or
presence within a group, but of the attention and energy
that an individual commits to a particular interaction
with others in the group. Through the mindful interpre-
tation by group members of an ongoing experience and
the mindful generation of appropriate actions, collec-
tive cognition connects individual ideas and experiences
in ways that both redefine and resolve the demands of
emerging situations.
The idea of collective cognition, joined with our
understanding of creative problem solving, provides a
framework for understanding moments of collective cre-
ativity. Collective mind resides in the mindful inter-
relations between individuals in a social system. One
person’s action or comments, when considered by oth-
ers, shapes theirs, which in turn (when heeded) shapes
the next. A focus on the collective aspects of these inter-
actions recognizes that one person’s past thinking and
Hargadon and Bechky: When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives
Organization Science 17(4), pp. 484–500, © 2006 INFORMS 487
action take on new meanings—to everyone involved—in
the evolving context of subsequent thinking and action.
Consider the case of the Reebok shoe described earlier.
One designer’s suggestion of a shoe-as-a-splint might
easily be dismissed as crazy, and ultimately forgotten.
Or, the same crazy suggestion is considered and built
on by others, becoming more realistic and, ultimately,
leading to a creative solution. Here the original comment
takes on new meanings—becoming creative—through
the mindful interactions of participants in the problem-
solving process.
Rather than relying on each individual’s cognitive
skills, collective creativity represents particular moments
when people’s perspectives and experiences are brought
together to bear on problematic situations in ways that
create distinctly new solutions. At these points, what to
think of as a problem and how to think of it become
the products of a collective process. We examine such
collective creativity by framing the phenomenon as a
moment when individuals come together to find, rede-
fine, and solve problems that no one, working alone,
could have done as easily, if at all. From within this
framework, the paper explores the behaviors that trig-
ger such moments of collective creativity, how those
behaviors interact, and how they are supported within
the organization.
Research Setting and Methods
This research program began by asking how individuals
in organizations redefine and reuse their old knowledge
and experiences in ways that provide the raw materials
for solving new problems (or solving old problems
in new ways). Intensive case studies were conducted
within six organizations whose work was almost wholly
structured around generating novel solutions to novel
problems. These organizations were professional service
firms that did not provide a common or consistent work
product, but rather attempted to solve problems that
varied across applications and industries. Most clients
engaged them expecting novel and valuable solutions
to the particular problems they faced and, within each
engagement, expected these solutions to draw from the
combined knowledge and experiences of the entire firm.
The evolution of McKinsey & Co., one of the organiza-
tions in this study, exemplifies these demands. Initially,
McKinsey & Co. was created with the confidence that
bright, broadly-educated young consultants could cre-
atively solve the problems that older and more parochial
clients could not (McKenna 1995, 1996). During the
1960s, as clients and competitors became more knowl-
edgeable about business practices, the firm was forced to
change its business model to one of presenting each con-
sultant as a portal into the combined experiences of the
entire firm. As one senior McKinsey partner explained,
“We had to deliver on the implied promise that if you
were engaging McKinsey, you were engaging a world-
wide network of knowledge.” To do that meant changing
its organizational practices to reflect this new require-
ment. Many professional service firms today share this
approach, and in both marketing promises and manage-
ment practices attempt to bring the full range of organi-
zational knowledge and experiences to bear on any one
client’s problems.
Because of the dynamic nature of their clients and
projects, these sites offered a unique glimpse into the
problem-solving process in organizations. Few projects,
if any, could be treated purely as replications of past
projects because each new project and client demanded
relatively novel solutions.1Within the organizations and
groups studied, then, arriving at a creative solution
was not a deviation from expected routine but rather
was the expected routine. The participating organiza-
tions consisted of two management consulting firms,
two engineering design consulting firms, and two inter-
nal consulting groups within multidivisional firms (see
Table 1). These firms represent a theoretical, and not ran-
dom, sample of the phenomenon of interest (Dougherty
and Hardy 1996, Eisenhardt 1989), in that all six firms
provided creative products to their clients and were mea-
sured and rewarded based solely on the creative value
of their work product. Thus, they were chosen because
their process and performance offered increased oppor-
tunity to generate insights regarding the creative process.
Moreover, these firms varied in terms of the type of
project they worked on (management solutions and prod-
uct designs) as well as the type of client they worked for
(external and internal). The case studies were not con-
ducted to test how creative these firms were, but rather
to understand how the creative problem-solving process
takes place across a variety of project types and within
different relational forms. The logic behind the selection
of these sites follows.
Management Consultants. Accenture (then Andersen
Consulting) and McKinsey & Company participated in
this study. These firms provide clients with help in
identifying, adopting, and implementing management
practices that are new to the client firm, for exam-
ple, globalization strategies, reengineering efforts, and
enterprise systems implementations. To these consult-
ing firms, each project represents a novel problem and
requires a solution that was mindful of the needs of that
client. The research focused on the actions and perspec-
tives of consultants who were attempting to bring the
range of the organization’s experiences to bear on the
problems of their particular client and project.
Product-Design Consultants. The two product-design
consulting firms were IDEO Product Development and
Design Continuum.2These two firms are, in order, the
two largest product-design consulting firms in the coun-
try. Product-design consultants provide engineering or
Hargadon and Bechky: When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives
488 Organization Science 17(4), pp. 484–500, © 2006 INFORMS
Table 1 Participating Organizations in Study
Management Consulting Firms
Accenture
Accenture’s 38,000 employees provide strategic business and technology solutions to clients. Examples of creative solutions include:
Demand chain solution provided to a client combining Internet infrastructure with SAP inventory-control software.
Solution for health-care company adapted from previous banking solution combining Internet and human-resource software.
McKinsey & Company
McKinsey & Company, with 4,000 employees, offers strategic business solutions to clients in almost all sectors of business. Examples
of creative solutions include:
A strategic planning model for a client facing deregulation built on problems learned by working with past clients in another,
previously deregulated industry.
A purchasing effectiveness program for one client built from an awareness of past solutions and problems with cost-cutting
projects of previous clients in other industries.
Internal Consultants Within Multidivisional Firms
Hewlett-Packard: Strategic Processes and Modeling Group
Hewlett-Packard develops and manufactures high-technology products for a wide variety of industries. The Strategic Processes and
Modeling Group works with the 150 or so divisions within the firm to optimize their manufacturing and distribution processes.
Examples of creative solutions include:
Supply chain management model continually combines problems and solutions of previous application environments.
Inventory-costing model combined marketing strategies from consumer-goods industries with traditional inventory models.
Boeing Company: BCAG’s Operations Technology Center
Boeing designs and builds commercial and military aircraft, helicopters, space and missile systems, and electronic and software
systems. The Operations Technology Center works with the many factories of the Boeing Commercial Airplane group to support
and advance their manufacturing process. Examples of creative solutions include:
Metal-stamping process improvement built from process solutions in other factories and from incorporating external materials.
Composite-materials production processes transferred technological knowledge from military divisions to within Boeing’s
Commercial Airplane Group.
Engineering Design Consulting Firms
IDEO Product Development
IDEO’s more than 300 employees provide engineering and design services to clients in over 40 industries and have contributed to
the design of more than 3,000 new products and, at any one time, are involved in approximately 50 development projects. Examples
of creative solutions include:
A blood analyzer that integrates the client’s chemical analysis equipment with technical components from the computer industry.
The mechanical whale for the movie “Free Willy,” which combines traditional special effects with ideas from computers, hydraulics,
and robotics.
Design Continuum
Design Continuum, with over 90 employees, has worked for more than 100 different clients in dozens of industries. Examples of
creative solutions include:
Pulsed-lavage emergency room wound cleanser that integrates a low-cost pump from a toy squirt gun with medical product-
design guidelines and materials.
Reebok pump shoe that combines the client’s shoe designs with inflatable splints, and technologies (and suppliers) from IV bag
manufacturing.
industrial design services, or both, to clients. This study
focused primarily on the activities of those individu-
als involved in engineering design, which in these firms
ranges from conceptual work on possible new prod-
ucts or technologies to detailed engineering drafting or
analysis.
Internal Consulting Groups Within Manufacturing
Firms. Two internal consulting groups within Hewlett-
Packard and Boeing also participated in this research.
The size and multidivisional structure of these orga-
nizations led to the formation of groups that act as
independent consultants, working with many of the dif-
ferent divisions on the particular problems they face.
Within Hewlett-Packard, for example, the Strategic Pro-
cesses and Modeling Group (SPaM) provides supply
chain management solutions tailored to the needs of the
different operating divisions that employ their services.
Within Boeing, the Operations Technology Group (Ops
Tech) specializes in providing manufacturing solutions
across the production facilities of different divisions and
different factories within divisions. In both cases, divi-
sions contract for the services of these internal consult-
ing groups, presenting them with problems related to
their ongoing operations.
Data Collection Methods and Analysis
Observing creativity as it occurs naturally is extremely
difficult, particularly when key contributions are only
Hargadon and Bechky: When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives
Organization Science 17(4), pp. 484–500, © 2006 INFORMS 489
recognized later as they trigger new insights in others
and are built upon. To understand how social interactions
shape new perspectives on problematic situations and
uncover potentially relevant past experiences, the field
study relied on ethnographic-research methods, which
allow the researcher to uncover the perspectives of the
people in the organization. Data were gathered from
multiple sources within each organization (Yin 1994).
Gathering evidence from multiple data sources addresses
potential problems of construct validity within a case
study because these different sources “provide for mul-
tiple measures of the same phenomenon” (Yin 1994,
p. 92). While each source has particular benefits, such
as the narrative and insight provided by informant inter-
view, each has particular problems as well, such as infor-
mants’ individual biases and retrospective rationaliza-
tions. Taken together, multiple measures allow for trian-
gulation, a process of data evaluation that builds support
for any findings or conclusions from the convergence of
multiple, independent observations. The research design
collected data from five sources: (1) interviews with key
informants, (2) project postmortems, (3) observations of
work, (4) tracking of particular projects (whether “live”
or retrospectively), and (5) documents and technologi-
cal artifacts of the organization. For further details about
each of these sources, please see the appendix.
To develop the inferences about creativity from within
the fieldwork, we used an iterative process of cycling
between the data, emerging theory, and relevant liter-
ature. Following Glaser and Strauss (1967) and Miles
and Huberman (1994), we developed initial categories
of actions related to collective creativity through several
intensive passes through all the interview transcripts and
field notes. Then, to relate these categories, a set of iter-
ations usually began with a hunch inspired by the data
or literature. For example, an informant mentioned that
asking others for help on a problem she was facing, often
gave her new insights into the problem, suggesting that
such social interactions shaped the creative process in
ways that working alone did not. To see if such hunches
could be grounded, we returned to the interview tran-
scripts and to the field notes and systematically compiled
pertinent evidence from all six case studies by gather-
ing related instances of how shared work practices might
play a role in the individual creative process and how
they might differ from existing conceptions of creativ-
ity. Across the field sites, if there was consistent support
for a particular characteristic of collective interaction in
the creative process, we retained the theme. When evi-
dence contradicted an emerging theme, we abandoned
it, returning to the theory to investigate and refine the
framework (for example, in one firm such collective
moments were viewed as fun, suggesting that collective
moments are precipitated by positive affect on behalf of
the participants; the data from the other sites, however,
did not support such a conclusion and it was abandoned).
We then wrote up the inferences regarding each retained
category, weaving together conceptual arguments, addi-
tional evidence, and citations to pertinent literature.
Precipitating Moments of Collective
Creativity in Organizations
This paper uses the evidence from these field stud-
ies to build a theoretical framework for understanding
the moments when collective creativity occurs in orga-
nizations. This framework highlights the role of col-
lective cognition in transforming an organization’s old
knowledge into creative alternatives for future action.
In doing so, it provides an alternative framework for
understanding and managing the creative process within
organizations—one that shifts the focus from individ-
uals to the interactions between them, and from a
constant phenomenon (i.e., creative individuals and orga-
nizations) to a series of momentary, transient phenom-
ena (i.e., creative moments in organizations). Below, we
describe how such collective moments of creativity hap-
pen in organizations, and explain the activities that make
them possible.
We can say that collective creativity has occurred
when social interactions between individuals trigger new
interpretations and new discoveries of distant analogies
that the individuals involved, thinking alone, could not
have generated. Such moments, in the firms studied,
seemed to emerge from within social interactions that,
like brainstorming, brought together those facing partic-
ular new problems and those with potentially useful past
experiences. For example, the CEO of Design Contin-
uum recognized these effects of social interactions:
You pick two people, with different experiences and
maybe even different training and put them together and
you’ve got that kind of a synergy, an exchange of ideas.
Because whatever this person says will provoke a hun-
dred different ideas in this other one and a hundred dif-
ferent memories.
However, we cannot yet say when such opportunities
for collective creativity are missed, because there is still
little understanding of these moments and what triggers
them.
Analysis of the field data reveals four sets of interre-
lating activities that play a role in triggering moments
of collective creativity: (1) help seeking, (2) help giv-
ing, (3) reflective reframing, and (4) reinforcing (see
Figure 1). Help seeking describes activities that occur
when an individual who either recognizes or is assigned
a problematic situation actively seeks the assistance of
others. Help giving, conversely, represents the willing
devotion of time and attention to assisting with the work
of others. Reflective reframing represents the mindful
behaviors of all participants in an interaction, where
each respectfully attends to and builds upon the com-
ments and actions of others. And, reinforcing reflects
Hargadon and Bechky: When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives
490 Organization Science 17(4), pp. 484–500, © 2006 INFORMS
Figure 1 Interactions Precipitating Moments of Collective
Creativity
Help
seeking
Help
giving
Reflective
reframing
Reinforcing
those activities that subtly (and sometimes not so subtly)
reinforce the organizational values that support individ-
uals as they engage in help seeking, help giving, and
reflective reframing; reinforcing happens as a direct con-
sequence of engaging in these three activities (e.g., help
giving as a response reinforces help seeking) as well
as through more indirect actions within the organiza-
tion (e.g., increased status or promotions for those who
engage in these activities).3We explain the role of these
activities in greater detail.
Help Seeking
The field data identified a set of actions that individuals
used to induce others to join in efforts to resolve a par-
ticular problematic situation—help-seeking behaviors—
and that play a necessary role in enabling moments of
collective creativity. In the organizations of this study,
the set of actors and patterns of interactions surround-
ing any one problematic situation were often fluid.
Thus, participation in a particular problem-solving pro-
cess depended on who was invited to do so—who was
assigned to a project team, who was invited to a brain-
storming session, or even who was approached in the
hallway. This differs from Weick and Roberts’s (1993)
conception of collective mind in high-reliability organi-
zations such as aircraft-carrier flight decks, where the set
of actors and patterns of interactions are relatively fixed.
As a result, help-seeking behaviors played a significant
role in determining who joined in any collective effort,
and thus what knowledge and experiences were brought
to bear on a problematic situation.
These organizations had an array of formal means
for soliciting interactions around a particular project or
problem. IDEO and Design Continuum, for example,
relied heavily on formal brainstorming meetings. IDEO
also held regular and organizationwide Monday morn-
ing meetings in which people would discuss the partic-
ular projects and problems they were working on and
any interesting solutions they might have found. Sim-
ilarly, HP’s SPaM Group held weekly meetings where
they would discuss the status of current projects, and
people in these meetings would often solicit help that
focused on coming to a collective understanding of their
particular problems. Boeing’s Ops Tech group also met
as a unit each month, but also gathered in smaller groups
for coffee each morning in different factories and, in a
fashion similar to Orr’s (1996) copier technicians, shared
war stories and discussed work in ways that often iden-
tified connections between past experiences and current
projects.
There were also many informal and unstructured meth-
ods for soliciting help, and informants often described
these methods as more important and useful than the for-
mal means. As an engineer at Design Continuum stated,
“There’s no consistent vehicle for people to share their
ideas, problems, projects. Right now the only way that
can happen meaningfully is face-to-face.” In HP’s SPaM
group, when people had problems (or simply needed a
break from their work) they would walk the halls ask-
ing questions and waiting for a head to pop up over
a cubicle wall and begin a conversation. Similarly, a
McKinsey partner explained how, rather than attempt
to solve a problem by himself, he would first seek out
others’ ideas:
What I would logically do is the most comfortable thing,
which was to go to somebody who’s in the practice and
who I know from the office and say, “I’m running into
some issues about IT cost production, how do you think
about that? Who’s the best person to call?”
Traditional approaches associated with individual
problem-solving efforts, like generating a solution alone
or searching the organizational database, were ignored in
favor of initiating hallway conversations, calling ad hoc
meetings, and “tapping into personal networks.” Also,
these interactions would often spur further interactions,
until they created a unique and often unexpected path
across multiple offices within McKinsey that ended, for
example, when someone in the Oslo office was helping
someone from San Francisco that they had just met on
the phone. Such help-seeking behaviors created opportu-
nities for social interactions that connected distant peo-
ple within these organizations and, by doing so, helped
move opportunities for creativity from the individual to
the collective level.
Help-seeking actions are often inhibited because they
carry the stigma of ignorance and the implication of
failure (Lee 1997, Ashford et al. 2003). However, these
repercussions were largely absent in the organizations
studied, where the seeking out of help was perceived
as a necessary means for bringing the organization’s
knowledge to bear. For example, asking others in to
work on new problems was codified in IDEO’s Design
Methodology Handbook, which suggests that early in
Hargadon and Bechky: When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives
Organization Science 17(4), pp. 484–500, © 2006 INFORMS 491
projects designers should “Set up at least two introduc-
tory brainstormers [brainstorming meetings] to get the
best minds in the company, the collective consciousness
of the office, working on your problem.” In words that
also reflect reinforcing actions, described later in more
detail, one senior engineer at IDEO described how blame
for any particular design failure depended on whether
the engineer had asked others for help or not: If they had
not sought help, then they would be held individually
responsible. Such help-seeking behaviors may be stig-
matized in other organizations where problems are rel-
atively routine, where individual roles are more clearly
delineated, and where ignorance in those roles is more
unexpected. In the firms studied, however, because most
problematic situations differed from day to day, and
because help seeking was a value that these firms rein-
forced, such behaviors carried less stigma and brought
more benefits. The activities prompted sets of momen-
tary interactions that connected those facing problematic
situations and those with potentially relevant—though
rarely obvious ex ante—knowledge and experience.
Help Giving
While help-seeking activities identify and invite other
organizational members to participate in problem-
solving efforts, such activities do not always ensure the
collaboration of others. In traditional bureaucratic orga-
nizations, for example, it is not uncommon for people to
respond to requests for help that fall outside their exist-
ing job assignments by asking for formal permission
from their managers or requiring complex paperwork to
ensure compensation (through internal budget transfers)
for the time spent working for another team or manager.
Such constraints on spontaneous responses to help seek-
ing impede help giving. Social interactions that lead to
moments of collective creativity, in contrast, require that
those who are invited to help actually give help, and do
so in a timely manner.
For example, the McKinsey partner in Oslo not only
returned the message from an unknown colleague in
San Francisco that day, but spent considerable time
helping with that colleague’s request despite an already
busy schedule. This also happened in HP’s SPaM group
when one day Katherine walked down the hall and
asked, “Bob, I’m working on this thing and I’m kind
of stumped. Can I borrow your brain?” Bob put down
his work and the two of them found a nearby confer-
ence room where they then spent an hour working on
Katherine’s project. Bob’s willingness to give his time
and attention ultimately led to recognizing that a sec-
tion of software Bob had previously written could be
adapted to help solve Katherine’s problem. In more for-
mal interactions, such help giving is sometimes acknowl-
edged through the routine use of project time cards. For
example, at IDEO and Design Continuum, when some-
one participates in a brainstorm on another project, they
record that time and it is billed to the appropriate client.
However, more often moments of collective creativity
are products of hallway conversations and other ad hoc
interactions, which would likely be inhibited by the
efforts required for formally accounting for this help.
The need for willing collaboration also shapes the
choices people make when soliciting help. One McKinsey
partner described how he would consciously decide
whether to ask a more senior (and busier) partner who
had potentially more relevant past experiences or ask
someone more junior who, while not as experienced,
had more time and inclination to respond: “You talk
with whom you can. You explore until you find peo-
ple in the firm that are accessible, near enough in the
time frame to talk about it.” There were particular people
who were considered thought leaders, experts, or gurus
in these organizations—these were typically senior part-
ners with established practice areas. However, because
such experts were mostly very busy, people would often
solicit help from others who might be less experienced
but, importantly, more likely to respond and participate
in the collective effort.
Research into organizational citizenship behaviors—
also described as extrarole behaviors or contextual
performance—has suggested that such help giving is
a critical behavior in organizations (Motowidlo 2000,
Bateman and Organ 1983). Such research has focused
on the individual preconditions and individual returns
for such behavior (Motowidlo 2000), but has not con-
sidered these extrarole behaviors in relation to creativity
in organizations. Here, we suggest that help giving plays
a vital role in precipitating moments of collective cre-
ativity within a larger web of activities that include help
seeking, reflective reframing, and reinforcing. Such help-
ful collaboration is central to collective efforts at creativ-
ity in organizations because, as the evidence suggests,
it is difficult for individuals working alone to generate
new interpretations of problematic situations or gener-
ate novel insights (Fiske and Taylor 1991). There were
certainly times when, for example, solicitations for help
arrived as clear questions and could be easily returned
with equally clear answers. There were also times, how-
ever, when either people asked the wrong questions or
when there were not yet clear questions to ask. Such
times provided the clearest evidence for the third set of
collective activities, reflective reframing.
Reflective Reframing
The moments when participants in social interactions
make new sense of what they already know comprise
a third important aspect of collective creativity that we
call reflective reframing. For example, one manager at
Accenture described his response when others sought his
experience for their projects:
Sometimes [other consultants will] just bring us a chal-
lenge and say “it kind of sounds like X to me, that’s
Hargadon and Bechky: When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives
492 Organization Science 17(4), pp. 484–500, © 2006 INFORMS
what you guys know so can you help me?” And usually
it’s not exactly what they describe but, hopefully, we can
come up with something that does work for them.
Rather than mindlessly answering the question as given,
or deflecting it completely, moments of collective cre-
ativity involve considering not only the original question,
but also whether there is a better question to be asked.
When participants come together in collective prob-
lem-solving efforts, one person often has a good under-
standing of the problematic situation, while others have
potentially relevant ideas and experiences to contribute.
The locus of creativity in the interaction moves to the
collective level when each individual’s contributions not
only give shape to the subsequent contributions of oth-
ers, but, just as importantly, give new meaning to others’
past contributions. Recalling the Reebok Pump design
team, a later recognition—that IV bags might be used to
make the inflatable splint-in-a-shoe—turned a previously
unrealistic idea into a realistic one. Such recognition
of potentially relevant new ideas and insights and such
reframing of a problematic situation come about not sim-
ply because the right people were brought in to help
on a project, or because they actively contributed, but
also because the participants in the process were able to
mindfully consider those contributions and change their
previously held conceptions of both the problem and rel-
evant solutions. These are the moments when creative
output can no longer be accurately attributed to any one
individual in the encounter—as each person’s insights
shaped and were shaped by the interaction.
Another brainstorming meeting at Design Continuum
illustrates how reflective reframing enables collections of
individuals to begin thinking collectively. In this meet-
ing, designers were searching for alternative solutions
for a complex valve mechanism for a gardening appli-
cation. Nicole, a Design Continuum engineer, explained
why she opted for a brainstorm to find help for her prob-
lem in designing a gardening tool: “The reason to have
collaboration and brainstorming is because you could
invite a bunch of people and not know what they’re
going to bring from their experience and their kind of
internalized data base and all that stuff.” During the
brainstorm, Nicole remembered a similar problem in
another context, but did not remember the details of the
solution. However, her comment triggered another engi-
neer, Don, to remember the details, as she related:
Well, I remember a product that you could just plug into
the faucet, it wasn’t electric and it pulsed the water flow.
You know this Water Pik thing that you just shoved on
the faucet. How did that work? And Don [said] “Oh, it’s
got a little spring mast thing in there and a valve that
moves back and forth.
Ultimately, Don’s suggestion redirected the team’s
search for solutions and provided a key component to
the final solution. Nicole and Don, individually, may not
have arrived at the potential value of a spring mast for
solving the gardening project, but together, over a brief
exchange, Nicole’s initial suggestion prompted Don to
recall past experiences that had until then not seemed
relevant. Even this connection emerged only after the
prompting and new perspectives generated by previous
analogies that arose over the course of the meeting.
The interaction between Nicole and Don entailed
more than an aggregation of two individuals listing
potential problem definitions; it required mindfully lis-
tening and building on the contributions of the other
(Weick and Roberts 1993, Weick et al. 1999). Beyond
just building on each others’ contributions, however, in
reflective reframing, one person’s suggested framing of
the problem shifted others’ awareness in ways that made
new frames visible. Such shifts in the framing of a prob-
lematic situation allow participants to recall details not
easily recognized in the original framing of the problem
(Fiske and Taylor 1991).
In another case, the comments of someone from
across the organization changed the way a project team
at McKinsey working with a medical products com-
pany had been framing the problem of inventory man-
agement. A partner described how her reaction, after
listening to the problem, was “Gee, by the way, this
problem you’re facing is the same one we faced when
working with frozen foods.” Within such interactions,
introducing an alternative frame—and reflecting upon
it—makes new aspects of the situation salient to other
participants, prompting them to view the relevance of
their past experiences in a new light. Such a process can
occur at the individual level, but group interactions may
increase the ability of its participants to generate and
shift between alternative frames of a given situation—
when each participant is willing to reconsider their pre-
vious assumptions.
Within the organizations studied, individuals chose
social interactions that retained the equivocality of past
experiences—the multiple meanings that might be con-
sidered and reapplied in a new context. As one Hewlett-
Packard engineer described,
When you read about somebody’s experience and then
actually go and talk to them about it you find the level
of knowledge is so much deeper than what can be trans-
ferred through a paper or an hour-long talk. There’s a
wealth of hidden knowledge that’s a result of the strug-
gles, the agonizing they went through to try to figure
out what’s the right way to proceed rather than the
wrong way.
Just as Getzels (1975) suggests in the context of indi-
vidual inventiveness, defining a problem is a pivotal
activity for creative production. Our informants recog-
nized the importance of such struggles, and pursued
them through interactions that encouraged reframing of
the question. In these interactive moments, by mind-
fully considering the possibility that past knowledge may
Hargadon and Bechky: When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives
Organization Science 17(4), pp. 484–500, © 2006 INFORMS 493
have alternative meanings, problem solvers maintained
the flexibility to see new connections between their past
experiences and the current projects others faced. This
flexibility enabled them to explore a range of interpre-
tations of any given situation and, from this range, col-
lectively consider and pursue possibilities that might not
have emerged otherwise.
Reinforcing
Reinforcing activities are those that support individuals
as they engage in help seeking, help giving, and reflec-
tive reframing and, as a result, they are also critical
to enabling those moments when collective creativ-
ity emerges. The social interactions that shape collec-
tive efforts involve more than directly bringing people
together; the interactions that give meaning and value
to these collective efforts were also important. In orga-
nizations that value individual efforts and view creativ-
ity as a fundamentally individual process, it is unlikely
that people will seek help from others or, for that mat-
ter, offer help in other people’s efforts. Moreover, help
that is given may be viewed as criticism or an attempt
to gain ownership of ideas—reducing opportunities for
reflective reframing and also, ultimately, the likelihood
of future help seeking or giving.
We identified two types of reinforcing behaviors in
the field data. First, individuals pursuing such collec-
tive moments are reinforced by any positive experiences
that resulted from engaging in help seeking, help giv-
ing, and reflective reframing. When during an interac-
tion someone reflects upon and reframes a problem by
using their past experiences—in frozen foods or IV bags,
for instance—the person who sought out the interac-
tion leaves with a positive outcome, a creative insight,
that makes it more likely they will seek help again on
their next problem. An engineer at Design Continuum,
for example, described how positive experiences within
brainstorming sessions came from the extent to which
individuals reinforced the contributions—both help giv-
ing and reframing—of all the participants:
I find that the most successful brainstorming sessions
here are with folks who can let go and give full credit
to almost every team member or who, as a team mem-
ber, is not really concerned about people saying this was
so-and-so’s idea, this was his idea or her idea. [They’re]
more concerned about defining and solving problems.
She would invite those particular people to another
brainstorming session based on her previous experiences
with them—reinforcing both her help seeking and their
help-giving behaviors. The CEO of IDEO even noted
that individuals often left the firm when it became clear
they were no longer being invited to such brainstorms.
Invitations to brainstorms reinforced reflective reframing
activities by encouraging those who were invited to con-
tinue enthusiastically and mindfully participating, while
sanctioning those who did not reflectively engage in the
sessions.
Second, the evidence suggests that reinforcing of these
activities also comes from the shared values and beliefs
of the organizations we studied; these organizations
viewed collective problem solving as more desirable
and, as a result, taught, rewarded, and promoted indi-
viduals based on those collective behaviors. These addi-
tional actions were perceived by informants as directly
reinforcing particular efforts at help seeking, help giv-
ing, or reflective reframing, and ranged from rewards for
seeking help or for helping on other people’s projects to
punishments for not seeking help on their own projects.
Thus, the reward structure of the organization, in terms
of promotions or credit for outstanding work, reinforced
the behaviors that precipitated moments of collective
creativity. For instance, a consultant within McKinsey
explained how she used help seeking as a means to
communicate to senior partners the interesting and chal-
lenging work she was doing, because those partners
would later vote on her promotions. A promotion crite-
rion that included rising to creative challenges therefore
encouraged people to seek help to demonstrate that they
met this hurdle, thus reinforcing help seeking. Addition-
ally, one Design Continuum engineer explained that his
organization rewarded good design work to the extent
that people understood the particular challenges of each
project. Thus he often sought others’ help as a way to
get credit for his own work. If there was a problem and
he spent the weekend in the office solving it by himself,
no one might ever know about either the problem or
the solution. However, by asking others for help on his
problems, they would see the difficulties he was facing
and appreciate the solution he ultimately pulled together
with the help of their reflective reframing.
Our informants were clearly aware of the status,
credit, and rewards that accrued to those who con-
tributed to moments of collective creativity. For exam-
ple, a McKinsey partner explained that he rarely put
sufficient information into the organizational database
because others would not give him credit for these con-
tributions—crediting themselves, instead, for finding the
information. Therefore, he put only enough into the
database to tease others into calling him directly, and
into acknowledging the current value of his past experi-
ences. In this way, mindful social interactions not only
provided a means for sharing past experiences, they also
provided the motive for doing so—as a way for individ-
uals to demonstrate the difficulty of the problems they
were working on and the value of their past experiences
to others. Other, more asocial means of enabling knowl-
edge sharing do not encourage people to participate in
joint problem-solving efforts.
Reinforcing behaviors acknowledged, sometimes
openly, the importance of social interactions in the cre-
ative process: People were expected to seek help from
Hargadon and Bechky: When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives
494 Organization Science 17(4), pp. 484–500, © 2006 INFORMS
others and, when asked, were expected to give help.
Thus, reinforcing created shared beliefs about the impor-
tance of these activities for the work of the organization.
One Design Continuum engineer explained that “no one
here works in a box”—everyone was expected to ask
for help whenever they had a problem. Further, such
interactions encouraged individuals to seek others’ help
in framing and solving the problems they faced. One
engineer at IDEO described how, when he arrived at
IDEO, he learned to draw upon the ideas of others in
the organization:
Where I worked before, you just didn’t ask for help. It
was a sign of weakness ! ! ! ! [At IDEO] we don’t have
time to screw around. At the first hint I don’t know
something, I’ll ask, “Does anyone know about this?” The
whole thing here is you’ve got to leverage as much as
possible. You ask for help—you are expected to ask for
help here.
Also, a McKinsey consultant described how asking for
help was not only accepted but expected of junior-level
consultants: “[It’s] a cultural thing. It is assumed that
you will make those calls.” Reinforcing and reward-
ing social interaction worked in combination to encour-
age the activities that created moments of collective
creativity.
These four activities—help seeking, help giving, re-
flective reframing, and reinforcing—provide a frame-
work for understanding how moments of collective
creativity are triggered in organizations. As Figure 1
illustrates, help seeking, help giving, and reflective
reframing are all mutually reinforcing activities that usu-
ally appear in combination and activate one another.
Reflective reframing is the core of the creatively col-
lective moment, as this activity is vital to drawing out
prior experience and combining it in new ways. Also,
in order for individuals to become a creative collective,
help seeking and help giving must lead to moments of
reflective reframing. However, we also might expect that
these activities sometimes occur in the absence of the
others: People might offer help without being asked, for
instance. Finally, other reinforcing activities linked to
organizational structures such as reward and credit play
a key role in our model, as they create a shared belief
in the importance of the three other activities.
Discussion
We have presented the findings of a field study that con-
siders how moments of collective creativity emerge in
organizations, and we identified a set of activities that
precipitate such moments. We now turn to the impli-
cations of these findings for deepening our understand-
ing of creativity, extending research in collective cogni-
tion, and understanding the boundary conditions of such
research on supraindividual cognition.
Contributions to the Creativity Literature
This research extends our understanding of organiza-
tional creativity by highlighting the collective and tran-
sient nature of those interactions that generate creative
insights. For instance, rather than thinking of suprain-
dividual creativity as a persistent organizational phe-
nomenon with varying degrees of collectiveness, our
research suggests that it is a rare and fleeting phe-
nomenon even in the most creative of organizations.
Thus, this study presents a mesolevel picture of cre-
ativity that is different from studies of firm-level inno-
vation (e.g., Hargadon and Sutton 1997, Nonaka and
Takeuchi 1995) that focus on organizational structure,
strategy, and ongoing practices. In highlighting the par-
ticular actions that enable collections of creative indi-
viduals to become a creative collective, we begin to see
links between these actions and how they precipitate
momentary shifts in the nature of interactions rather than
alter persistent firm-level variables. This shift in focus
suggests the effectiveness of larger and more explicit
organizational practices (e.g., brainstorming, multifunc-
tional teams, knowledge-sharing initiatives) may depend
on more subtle microinteractions and their embedded-
ness within the social systems of the organization.
Our findings also extend individual notions of prob-
lem finding (Getzels 1975) and analogical reasoning
(Gentner and Gentner 1983) to the mesolevel of analysis,
by demonstrating how the process of reflective refram-
ing happens during collective moments of interaction.
Because people looking to solve their problems often
cannot do so alone, these moments of reflective refram-
ing are critical to the creative process in organizations.
Our analysis suggests that it is not easy to predict when
such moments might happen; however, we have pro-
posed a set of behaviors that play a key role in gen-
erating the context for such moments, including help
seeking, help giving, and reinforcing.
Moreover, this study offers ideas for extending psycho-
logical studies of creativity (e.g., Oldham and Cummings
1996, Amabile 1995), by highlighting how momentary
collective efforts contribute to and are complementary
with individual efforts. One of the prevailing models of
individual creativity is the componential model devel-
oped by Amabile and colleagues (Amabile 1983, 1988;
Amabile et al. 1996; Mueller et al. 2000). The compo-
nential model of creativity suggests that creative behavior
is the result of the confluence of three individual-level
components—domain-relevant skills, creativity-relevant
skills, and task motivation (Amabile 1995)—that shape
the likelihood that an individual will be creative in that
situation. Using the concept of collective creativity, we
suggest three ways the componential model may be
extended to fit creative processes that take place at higher
levels of organizing.
The componential model would be enhanced by
considering the role that particular social interactions
Hargadon and Bechky: When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives
Organization Science 17(4), pp. 484–500, © 2006 INFORMS 495
play in enabling participants to identify which of
their knowledge domains are relevant to solving a
particular problem. Domain-relevant skills encompass
all the knowledge an individual possesses to develop,
synthesize, and judge a creative solution (Amabile 1995,
pp. 85–87). Because collective creativity takes place in
moments when any one individual does not hold all of
the necessary knowledge to construct a creative solution,
the potential for a creative solution requires the domain-
relevant skills of multiple participants. One person might
have a potentially valuable idea but not recognize its
value, while another has enough knowledge of the prob-
lem to value that idea but not know of it. One engi-
neer’s expertise in medical IV bags, for instance, might
not seem relevant to mention, nor another’s expertise
in valves and pumps, until a third suggests reframing
the idea of a sneaker as an inflatable splint. Existing
research has shown how individuals in problem-solving
groups are reluctant to explore and share their nonover-
lapping knowledge (e.g., Stasser and Titus 1987). Our
findings suggest extending our conception of domain-
relevant skills to consider the behaviors that encour-
age such sharing of domain-relevant information: What
influences when particular individuals are asked for help,
when that help is voluntarily given, when individual con-
tributions are reflectively reframed, and when these three
activities are reinforced by others in the organization?
Our analysis also suggests opportunities to expand our
conception of intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation
has been shown to be a central and critical component
of creative behavior, and this motivation depends upon
the individual’s sense of free choice and freedom from
constraints (Amabile 1995, Koestler 1964). While intrin-
sic motivation is seen as an individual-level construct,
the experiences gained in momentary interactions often
shape its formation. For example, individuals learn what
aspects of work life are important, how they should
act, and how they will be evaluated by gathering verbal
and nonverbal cues from the actions of others in their
work environment (Salancik and Pfeffer 1978). Through
moments spent interacting with respected others who are
visibly engaged in and passionate about their work, new-
comers may come to hold similar values regarding such
work. Considering the moments in which help seeking,
help giving, reflective reframing, and reinforcing behav-
iors encourage motivation would help us to understand
the role of intrinsic motivation in creativity processes.
Finally, understanding the social nature of creative
insights may shed light on the nature of creativity-
relevant skills. One of the goals of the literature on
collective cognition is to account for the influence of
social systems on individual cognition, focusing on
the social context of thought rather than on individ-
ual mental processes (Porac et al. 1996). We demon-
strate that momentary social interactions, although fleet-
ing and difficult for visitors to observe, may carry signif-
icant weight in shaping how participants pursue the cre-
ative process. Because collective efforts at problem solv-
ing are a more observable cognitive phenomenon than
the same efforts carried out by individuals, the social
interactions that make up the creative process in these
firms may shape expectations for how individuals should
work alone. Individuals participating in group problem-
solving sessions may learn by observing others’ behav-
iors, for example, by similarly looking for analogies
and experimenting with alternative frames when they are
later working alone. For instance, one Design Contin-
uum engineer described how his environment shaped his
approach to creativity:
You have that different perspective partially through the
experience of just being exposed to all different kinds
of programs directly but also just getting in the habit
of doing that. You can see that you need to apply other
manufacturing processes to places that have never heard
of them.
In this way, our findings demonstrate that mindful inter-
actions across individuals provide not only a collective
mechanism for generating solutions, but can also shape
the subsequent creativity-relevant skills of individuals
working alone.
Understanding Collective Cognition and
Group Process
In building on the literature of collective cognition and,
in particular, of collective mind and heedful interrelat-
ing, we hope to focus attention on how collective cre-
ativity is a social process, solving problems by pooling
the resources of people in the moment and, ultimately,
across a series of moments. This is similar to the mind-
ful processes seen in high-reliability organizations in the
sense that reflective reframing, like heedful interrelat-
ing, is necessary for creative interactions as well as reli-
able ones, because in both cases participants must be
aware that “any ‘familiar’ event is known imperfectly
and is capable of novelty” (Weick et al. 1999, p. 91).
Our understanding of collective creativity differs from
collective mind, however, in that our focus is on the pro-
cesses that generate creative disruptions from the estab-
lished order as opposed to maintaining order in the face
of disruption.
Therefore, we suggest that a different process of mind-
fulness is called for in creative organizations. Mindful-
ness in settings requiring high reliability depends upon
people interrelating their actions with their representa-
tions of the collective enterprise (Weick and Roberts
1993, pp. 362–363); in these organizations the ends of
the enterprise are clear—to maintain order in the face of
change. In contrast, in settings requiring creativity, the
ends of the enterprise are not clear, as the goal of the
process is to create new solutions—to maintain change
in the face of order. Within creative organizations, mind-
fulness may be better characterized by the process of
Hargadon and Bechky: When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives
496 Organization Science 17(4), pp. 484–500, © 2006 INFORMS
reflective reframing, which includes not only representa-
tions of the existing order, but also the introduction and
construction of frames, or representations, of potential
new orders. So while the literature on collective mind
calls our attention to the importance of managing sur-
prises by being preoccupied with failure and committed
to the resilient pursuit of the routine (Weick et al. 1999),
our analysis suggests that future research on collective
cognition might explore how mindfulness, characterized
here as one aspect of reflective reframing, also pursues
novelty out of the routine.
Our understanding of the momentary processes of col-
lective creativity may also help us delve more deeply
into the behavior that underlies some of the findings in
the literature on group process. The literature on brain-
storming, for example, finds that individuals perform
better than groups on creative tasks (Diehl and Stroebe
1987, 1991; Mullen et al. 1991; Paulus et al. 1996) and
attributes this poor group performance to such factors
as social loafing, social anxiety, blocking, and down-
ward comparison. On the other hand, minority dissent
and high participation among group members has been
found to increase innovation (Carsten and West 2001), as
has performance pressure (Paulus and Dzindolet 1993).
Our study illustrates that in social interactions that arise
within stable and ongoing communities (such as orga-
nizations), these factors are themselves products of past
social interactions and shared values. Therefore, in orga-
nizations that reinforce behaviors of help seeking, help
giving, and reflective reframing, we would expect that
there would be little social anxiety, and normative pres-
sures to participate in collectively creative interactions
would enable increased group creativity.
Our research demonstrates the importance of the so-
cial and momentary nature of collective cognition and,
as a consequence, provides insight into why knowledge-
management systems often fail in organizations. Specif-
ically, we believe this failure is related to the value
people place on reflective reframing as an element of
the collective creativity process. All of the firms stud-
ied had invested, sometimes heavily, in formal databases
and other means for storing the knowledge generated in
past projects and other experiences. The intent of these
knowledge-management systems was for individuals to
access the organizations’ past knowledge and, individu-
ally, solve the problems they faced in a project.
However, as consistently as these organizations
adopted such databases, informants described their inef-
fectiveness. A Design Continuum engineer recounted the
failure of such a database:
We had this library where different people were supposed
to maintain different things. This person was going to
maintain a library of glues, this one a library of plastic
parts. And it just completely fell apart; it didn’t go two
weeks before it had completely fallen apart.
Considerable organizational investment had gone into
capturing and codifying individual knowledge to make
it available to all in the organization, yet these efforts
were not valued by the very people they were intended
to serve. An Accenture partner explained, “Everybody
here has their own [network] in terms of just using voice
mail and having your own set of personal contacts!!!I
don’t think anybody here actually peruses the Knowl-
edge Exchange to get that type of information.” And one
Hewlett-Packard informant related, “It’s all in people’s
heads. The model’s out there somewhere but there are
so many models in the network drive that if you didn’t
know, you’d spend days trying to find out what you were
looking for.” Rather than search on their own through
codified knowledge, the problem solvers of these orga-
nizations relied on those social interactions that helped
them recognize nonobvious connections between the
organization’s knowledge and their current projects.
Technical knowledge-management efforts may be
ignored because these more asocial practices discourage
the moments of interaction that lead to reflective refram-
ing and reconsidering of old ideas in new contexts.
Databases codify knowledge, storing it in ways that can
be easily retrieved using known and expected keywords.
When problems are well known, these systems provide
effective access to the solutions that are typically associ-
ated with those problems. However, the very efficiency
of database deposit-and-withdrawal mechanisms makes
them difficult tools for finding nonobvious links between
ideas. Databases rely on individuals who know what they
want to do, where they want to look, and what they
want to find. In short, most databases neither reflect on
questions nor make unanticipated connections between
those questions and other ideas and experiences residing
in the database. These connections are made, instead, in
the reflective reframing that occurs through momentary
interactions in organizations.
Boundary Conditions
The phenomenon of collective creativity depends on the
actions of help seeking, help giving, reflective refram-
ing, and reinforcing that take place before (and after)
moments of collective insight. Such actions are often
constrained or undermined in organizations, however,
and keep problem solvers from tapping into each other’s
past experiences. For example, in many organizations,
seeking help from others has social costs, as it can reflect
the tacit admission that one is unable to solve problems
on one’s own, a confession of inadequacy that few are
willing to make (e.g., Lee 2002). As Edmondson (1996,
1999) shows, these costs can be mitigated through the
creation of a climate of psychological safety in which
people trust that they can be open about making mistakes
and asking questions. However, this type of openness
in spontaneous gatherings requires behavioral reinforce-
ment that extends beyond (and before) the “team.” Such
Hargadon and Bechky: When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives
Organization Science 17(4), pp. 484–500, © 2006 INFORMS 497
reinforcement is provided for the creative organizations
we studied through behaviors that rewarded and encour-
aged collective problem-solving activities.
Further, the actions that precipitate collective moments
may be inhibited by the status hierarchy within organi-
zations. While our field sites were somewhat egalitarian
professional organizations with a focus on creative ideas,
we would expect that less-egalitarian organizations, such
as those with strong occupational hierarchies, would pro-
vide less opportunity for such moments. For instance,
Lee’s (2002) study of feedback seeking in hospitals sug-
gests that those with higher occupational status are not
as likely to seek help. One would imagine that moments
of collective creativity would occur less frequently in
that type of organizational setting.
It should also be noted that while creative solutions
often reflect such collective efforts, the people in these
organizations were aware of other times when the shar-
ing of ideas and experiences did not happen. For exam-
ple, one manager in Boeing’s Ops Tech group explained:
There are cases where the person who has the knowledge
is sitting right next to you and it goes unnoticed and you
plow a lot of ground that you didn’t necessarily have to.
There’s still a lot duplication of effort. There just isn’t
any way that I know of to make all knowledge that has
ever been done on something available to the person at
the time in which they need it. It’s all a matter of getting
the right knowledge into the right hands at the right time.
So, while the evidence suggests that collective cogni-
tive processes link the past knowledge of organizational
members to current problems faced by others, it also
suggests this process occurs only in those moments
when that past knowledge is made available across the
organization.
Collective creativity can also have costs as well as
benefits. The emphasis on a collective process, for in-
stance, may come at the cost of accomplishing other
types of work. For instance, encouraging consultants
to spend time contacting one another rather than using
available solutions in the corporate database can result in
not completing work on time, or in reinventing the wheel
(Hargadon and Bechky 2005). Additionally, focusing on
collectively creative interactions is not always prudent:
For particular problems, sometimes a better solution is
not necessary (Nemeth and Staw 1989, Staw 1995).
Future Research
This study sought to identify and develop an initial
model of collective creativity and the actions that precip-
itate such moments in organizational settings. As such,
qualitative methods and inductive theory building were
a useful approach to identifying and describing the phe-
nomenon. However, these methods are not as well suited
to testing propositions and hypotheses derived from the
theory. The relative effects (and metrics) of help seeking,
help giving, reflective reframing, and reinforcement on
collective cognition and similar group processes may be
better studied using more quantitative methods in labo-
ratory techniques or field surveys.
Future research might continue studying processes of
collective cognition through laboratory or field studies
based on tests and exercises developed to study individ-
ual cognition (see, for example, Gentner and Gentner
1983; Gentner and Markman 1997; Reeves and Weisberg
1993, 1994). What experimental conditions that shape
help seeking and help giving, for example, might be used
to induce or suppress subsequent reflective reframing
among pairs and groups of individuals working jointly to
solve such creativity tasks? In field studies, how might
past group performance shape subsequent help seeking
among collaborators?
Future field research could also focus on exploring
the nature of reinforcing activities, as this study did
not find differences in the types of reinforcing behav-
iors across firms. However, one might expect that rein-
forcing actions might work more or less effectively in
encouraging collective creativity. As Orlikowski (1993)
found while studying technological adoption, reinforcing
behavior can be tricky—when such actions run counter
to the shared expectations of the organization members,
their effectiveness is minimal. Thus, while the inter-
actions of collective creativity may be momentary, the
support structure that firms create for such moments can-
not be ephemeral, and future research is needed to fully
investigate the differences in effectiveness of reinforcing
activities.
Analyzing the creativity that emerges through col-
lective, momentary processes has implications for
managerial action as well. For instance, while the social-
psychological findings about creativity suggest appli-
cations to small, close groups that act, at times, like
individuals (Amabile 1988, p. 141), the emphasis in
such research has been on creating “high-performance”
teams as a persistent phenomenon (e.g., Katzenbach and
Smith 1993, Lipman-Blumen and Leavitt 1999) and not
on enabling the fleeting moments that possibly under-
lie such high performance. The data from this field
study suggest that, rather than attempting to build last-
ing groups, organizations might support the activities—
help seeking, help giving, reflecting reframing, and
reinforcing—that facilitate the spontaneous formation of
ad hoc groups formed around particular problems. This
implies that managers, in addition to managing creative
individuals in the creative process, should also focus
their attention on reinforcing the interactions that turn
individuals into creative collectives.
Further, while much of the creativity literature is
focused on individual creative ability and its expression
in the organizational context, managers might find col-
lective creativity more dependent on individuals’ abil-
ities to interact with others. This perspective suggests
organizations seeking creative outcomes, such as new
Hargadon and Bechky: When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives
498 Organization Science 17(4), pp. 484–500, © 2006 INFORMS
product development groups, should select and reward
individuals who pursue collective achievements over
individual ones. Additionally, managers might encourage,
or even require, routine interactions between project
teams in order to foster the social interactions that pre-
cede and ultimately precipitate collective moments that
cross traditional organizational boundaries. For exam-
ple, both IDEO’s brainstorms and McKinsey’s transi-
tory team structures routinely bring together people from
across projects in ways that foster friendships and infor-
mal help seeking and help giving.
Conclusion
The phenomenon of creativity exists relatively indepen-
dently of the interpretive frameworks we use to study
it. Approaches that focus on the individual and inven-
tive aspects of creativity will find within any creative
solution key roles played by particular individuals and
particular ideas that break from established expectations.
At the same time, however, approaches that focus on
the social and continuous aspects of a creative solution
will find key roles played by particular interactions and
preexisting ideas. In this way, collective perspectives on
creativity neither deny the existence of the individuals
involved nor deny the novelty of their ideas. Rather,
a collective perspective makes salient other aspects of
a persistently complex phenomenon. Popular and sci-
entific interest in individual creative accomplishments
shapes not only how we as social scientists choose to
describe and measure creativity, but also how people in
organizations approach their work and how they later
explain it. In some cases it provides a model for individ-
uals engaged in creative efforts to work alone and ignore
potentially valuable past ideas—to reinvent the wheel. In
other cases, it provides a language that masks (to partic-
ipants and observers alike) what is a collective process.
The data from this research offers one glimpse into how
organizational creativity takes place as a collective pro-
cess. Returning to the recognition by one of his longtime
assistants that Edison was in reality a “collective noun,
this research suggests that the study of creativity in orga-
nizations might benefit from the incorporation of more
such collective nouns into our vocabulary.
Acknowledgments
The authors are grateful to Robert I. Sutton, Steve Barley,
Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, Kim Elsbach, Gerardo Okhuysen, and
Jane Douglas for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper.
Additionally, they appreciate the assistance of Jim Walsh and
their three anonymous reviewers. They would also like to
thank the many participants in this research project for sharing
their time and insights. This research was funded in part by a
grant from the Center for Innovation Management Studies of
Lehigh University.
Appendix. Research Methods—Sources of Data
Interviews with key informants. Individual interviews
offered detailed narratives of the problem-solving process.
Such recollections are prone to individual experiences, biases,
and retrospective rationalizations, yet often give voice to
highly informed understandings of those who are closely
involved in the process. In total, over 110 interviews were
conducted (with the in-depth study of IDEO Product Devel-
opment accounting for approximately 60 of these). The first
author interviewed between 6 (all of Hewlett-Packard’s onsite
members of the SPaM Group) and 12 informants within each
of the other organizations, ranging from executives to project
managers to engineers and other “front-line” employees who
are actively engaged in the problem-solving work of the orga-
nization. Interviews pursued three goals: to define the overall
structure, work practices, and culture of the organization; to
identify and describe the patterns of interaction within and
from outside the organization; and to identify potential projects
that exemplified creative solutions.
Project postmortems. Project postmortems are traditionally
formal opportunities for project teams to reflect on the merits
and mistakes of a recently completed project and record the
experiences of the project team for others. In this research,
they served as team interviews intended to discuss the history
of particular projects. These postmortem interviews provided a
useful picture of past events because participants offered mul-
tiple perspectives on common events and often filled gaps in
what, from any one informant, may have been an incomplete
recollection.
Observations of work. Observations of ongoing problem-
solving activities varied by the type of work performed within
each organization. While small and focused problem-solving
sessions, like brainstorming meetings (Osborn 1957), offered a
glimpse into the social interactions that constitute the creative
process, ideas and solutions were also generated in ad hoc,
informal hallway interactions. Observing these meetings and
social moments provided insight into how social interactions
shaped individual participants’ perspectives on the problem,
and subsequent responses. Within each site, the first author
observed several problem-solving meetings and informal inter-
actions in which groups faced problems and actively generated
alternative solutions.
Tracking of particular projects. Interviews and project post-
mortems helped identify past projects that reflected, in their
outcomes, new combinations of existing ideas. For these
projects, the first author interviewed relevant individuals to
determine the source of inspirations for the innovative features
of the project and tried to determine the path of informa-
tion flows that brought these innovative ideas together. Such
follow-up interviews acted as “task-related tours” (Spradley
1979) in which informants provided concrete details of past
events and, by doing so, recollected specific interactions that
shaped the outcomes of these projects.
Documents and technological artifacts of the organiza-
tion. Written material also served as a data source describing
the work, structure, and culture of the organizations. These
sources included the popular media, existing organizational
research, and original and compiled historical data. For this
research, technological artifacts included products, prototypes,
sketches, and—in some cases—presentations that made up the
work product of the organization. Studying the artifacts of an
organization enabled the identification of instances in which
old solutions were used to solve new problems. This analysis
motivated subsequent data gathering to understand the organi-
zational processes that led to these solutions.
Hargadon and Bechky: When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives
Organization Science 17(4), pp. 484–500, © 2006 INFORMS 499
Endnotes
1While a number of professional service firms offer a single
or limited set of preexisting services, such as tax preparation,
legal advice, or the implementation of enterprise software, this
study was interested in those organizations that engaged in
open-ended projects, where the solutions were not known in
advance.
2The data for the IDEO case study was gathered during the
first author’s 18-month ethnography of this organization. The
original field notes, interview transcripts, archived information,
artifacts, and videotaped meetings were revisited to generate
new insights into the creative process within this organization.
3We present these four activities as distinct behaviors because
they fit the data reasonably well and provide a simple and
analytically useful way of summarizing these data. Nonethe-
less, the behaviors and motivations that informants described
and we observed could not always be cleanly distinguished:
Aspects of more than one activity were often present in any
interaction. One person’s help seeking, for example, was also
a way of reinforcing the help a designer had previously given.
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Oaks, CA.
... Research in organizational behavior and social psychology demonstrates how individuals can benefit from taking advice and help (e.g., Baker and Bulkley 2014;Flynn and Lake 2008;Flynn et al. 2006;Hargadon and Bechky 2006). This is especially true when the search for advice is broadengages a diverse set of potential advisors. ...
... The effort bore fruits: we learned that the benefits are affected by cognitive limitations (e.g., Argote 2000) and motivation (Cabrera and Cabrera 2002;De Dreu et al. 2008;Wittenbaum et al. 2004). These benefits may not materialize if potential seekers decline to search (Gray and Meister 2004;Hargadon and Bechky 2006), fail to motivate others (Baker and Bulkley 2014;Flynn and Lake 2008), or are tripped by manipulative or secretive sources (Haas and Park 2010;Schilling and Fang 2014). Benefits can be affected by the relationships between the advice-seeker and the advisor (e.g., Bunderson and Reagans 2011;Hinds et al. 2001;Levin and Cross 2004;McDonald et al. 2018;McDonald and Westphal 2003;Reagans et al. 2005;Westphal 1999) as well as the structure of the underlying social network (e.g., Alexiev et al. 2010;Hansen 1999;McDonald et al. 2008;Menon and Pfeffer 2003;Menon et al. 2006;Mole et al. 2015;van Doorn et al. 2017). ...
... This process of peer clustering is variedly present in the way professionals are assigned to tasks (Hargadon and Bechky 2006) or summon brainstorming sessions (Sutton and Hargadon 1996). It resembles the way executives seek advice from similar others (McDonald et al. 2018;McDonald and Westphal 2003;Westphal 1999). ...
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When facing a crisis (or preparing for one), decision-makers often turn to peer networks, seeking advice and providing it. Scholars and practitioners endorse sharing knowledge and experience, especially for boosting resilience and combating crises. They believe such decentralized, peer-to-peer contact suits the ill-structured challenges organizations encounter. Yet, this endorsement overlooks a bias known as the Dunning-Kruger effect: People regularly misjudge their own and their peers’ skills. Thus, ascertaining whether a peer is sufficiently skilled to advise is an error-prone endeavor. Because of the bias, a person in need may mistakenly accept poor advice—and then proceed to unintentionally spread it. To understand advice networks in crisis, we weave case studies and experimental evidence into a formal model. Seeding the model with empirical data on skill (mis)judgment, we confirm that advice improves performance, but only if skill misjudgment is assumed away. When the bias is incorporated into the model, the risk of transmitting poor advice increases. As it cascades from one person to another, poor advice undercuts skill throughout organizations and networks. And it reduces the diversity and range of knowledge and advice, further hampering crisis response. Seeking a remedy, we introduce a theoretically-derived mechanism for carving up the advice network, showing how organizational design can ameliorate the risk. We conclude with implications for resilience and crisis research and practice whether in established organizations or entrepreneurial ventures.
... Tang Chaoying and Huang Dongling put forward the influence path of internal team network on R&D creativity by reviewing domestic and foreign research literature from the perspective of internal team network relationships, network structure and node characteristics [14]. Hargadon and Bechky built a model of collective creativity, focusing on the process of how a group of creative individuals becomes a creative collective [15]. It was found that individuals with novel changes may arouse collective creativity by seeking others' help. ...
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As an important outcome of team innovation, team creativity has become an important issue in academia and industry. Meanwhile, the horizontal leadership model has been preliminarily proven to be effective in improving the output of innovation performance. Multiple chain mediating effects of team psychological safety climate, cognitive motivation and social motivation on shared leadership and team creativity in innovative teams were proposed on the basis of social network theory and group dynamics theory. In this study, 178 innovation teams and 2011 innovation team members were given questionnaires, and the obtained data were empirically analyzed. The results show that shared leadership has a significant positive effect on team creativity in innovative teams; team psychological safety climates, cognitive motivation and social motivation play a partial mediating role between shared leadership and team creativity, and play a chain mediating role together. At the team level, the study verifies the positive effect of shared leadership on team creativity and reveals the complex team process.
... Moreover, having similar perspectives on the task at hand facilitates finding common ground and avoiding unproductive conflicts (Gebert et al. 2007, Kurtzberg andAmabile 2001), and thus helps the team reach consensus on the final solution (Ancona and Caldwell 1992, Bercovitz and Feldman 2011, Lovelace et al. 2001. As a result, teams characterized by higher levels of expertise similarity usually find it easier to synthesize different pieces of information and knowledge into a coherent solution (Hargadon and Bechky 2006;Harvey 2014;Lingo and Mahony 2010;Liu et al. 2018). Such teams are thus better at coping with the need-in the case of integral inventions-to continuously integrate and coordinate the work of individual team members. ...
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Research has demonstrated that certain team composition factors—high expertise similarity, high network cohesion, and mixed‐gender teams—have predominantly negative effects on the teams’ invention outcomes. Yet these factors have also been shown to improve team coordination, which should (in theory) lead to better invention outcomes. We address this tension by highlighting the need to consider the invention's integrality, which increases task interdependencies among team members and thereby strengthens the positive relationship between team coordination and invention value. We hypothesize that (i) the main effects of these team composition factors reduce a team's invention value but, more importantly, that (ii) invention integrality positively moderates those effects. We support these claims with evidence from utility patent data filed in the United States during the period 1983–2015. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
... Although individual and group creativity play a central role in creativity research (Anderson et al., 2014), ultimately, however, creative ideas originate from individual thoughts, or individual insight, that are only subsequently further processed through collective interaction (Hargadon & Bechky, 2006). Group creativity is thereby a function of individual creativity (Woodman et al., 1993). ...
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Extant research provides vast information on antecedents to creativity. However, creative thinking is oftentimes treated as a black box, requiring input and producing creative output. Cognitive processes occurring during creative thinking tend to be neglected, although they can provide a bridge between the inputs to creativity and the resulting outputs. Literature offers different perspectives on creative thinking processes, such as the separation of divergent and convergent thinking, different stages of creativity or the concept of creative cognition. This variety of concepts underlying creativity has led to confusion and misinterpretations of some concepts. Moreover, the overemphasis on creative outcomes and divergent thinking has resulted in a neglect of a more comprehensive view on cognitive dimensions of creativity. Through reviewing and synthesizing multidisciplinary literature on creativity, an integrative framework is developed positioning cognitive elements of creativity within a system including organizational antecedents to creativity and creative outcomes. The framework seeks to offer pathways to increasingly incorporate the concept of creative cognition into future research. Suggesting different forms of creative cognition that individuals engage in during creative thought, this theoretical work further offers a theoretical development of creativity concepts that intends to inspire future research designs and facilitates cross‐disciplinary knowledge transfer.
... A creative new product would be one that differs from existing products, but is still effective (or even more effective) in accomplishing the purpose for which it was intended. Nevertheless, today's complexity and competitive market of products and services suggest that creativity is an outcome of the creative process that normally takes place within an organisation (Hargadon & Bechky, 2006). ...
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Despite the sound number of research work on creativity, a few researchers have paid attention to the mediating role of job satisfaction between creativity, adaptive selling, and sales performance. The present study investigates the direct relationship between the salesperson’s creativity and adaptive selling on their performance. In addition, the study also examines the role of job satisfaction as a moderator between creativity and adaptive selling and between creativity and sales performance of Indian disserves companies. The study is conducted using a sample of 120 respondents including both salesperson and supervisor from diverse industries in India. Results reveal that there is a significant positive relationship between creativity, adaptive selling, and sales performance. Besides, it shows that job satisfaction moderates the relationship between creativity and sales performance, but there is no relationship between creativity and adaptive selling. The paper provides a valuable contribution to theory and practice and identifies potential areas for further investigation.
... The componential theory of creativity defines emotional and social modules as obligatory for individuals to yield creative outputs, thereby underlining the significant characteristic of intrinsic motivation and the immediate influence of the organizational milieu on stirred motivation [64]. Therefore, creative performance is a shared/collaborative practice that involves interactive relations with immediate colleagues and partners and the immediate environment [65]. Wallas [66] investigated and claimed a four-phased creative problem-solving process in his pioneer work, which includes groundwork in pursuit of problem-solving, development of a precise line of action, comprehensive explanation of the course of action developed in the second phase, and authentication of the scheduled course of action through practical implementation. ...
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The purpose of this empirical study is to investigate the effects of emotional intelligence (EI) on learning outcomes (e.g., social, cognitive, and self-growth outcomes) and satisfaction with the university experience of academics and administrative staff at Chinese and Pakistani research universities. This study also investigates the mediation of self-directed learning (personal autonomy, personal responsibility, and personal growth) and knowledge management processes (KMPs) concerning the relationship between EI and learning outcomes. Moreover, this study explores the relationship between learning outcomes and creative performance (creative self-efficacy and leadership/supervisor support). The survey method was considered appropriate for the data collection and was completed simultaneously through paper and electronic mediums. The partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) method with a measurement assessment, structural assessment, mediation, and multi-group analysis was applied to a sample of 729 academics and administrative staff from Chinese and Pakistani research universities. A few dissimilarities surfaced with regard to EI and learning outcomes while evaluating the higher education institutions (HEIs) from both countries. Moreover, an indirect relation between EI and learning outcomes was established via self-directed learning and KMPs. Lastly, the intended direct statistical association between learning outcomes and creative performance was also documented. This study may serve as an initiative to equate and differentiate EI in relation to learning outcomes and creative performance among higher education professionals in China and Pakistan. The considered framework is novel and supports both EI and learning outcomes while adhering to the perceived value of the two adjacent regions.
Chapter
The authors of this chapter aim to present the links between an aging workforce, innovation, and creativity. They address each of these themes individually, and then analyze the interconnection between the central theme (i.e., the aging workforce with creativity and innovation), and in the last point, analyze the innovative work behavior as a conclusive way of using the knowledge and skills of the aging workforce as a competitive advantage for an organization. Thus, this chapter demonstrates that the aging workforce, contrary to popular belief, is one of the age segments of organizations that contributes most to the innovation process since there is a symbiotic process between older and younger workers, and this is also evident in the creative process since innovation and creativity are intrinsic processes.
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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how agile project management can foster creativity in project teams. Design/methodology/approach The study is based on an extensive literature review of agile project management and team creativity and is matching these two to answer the following research questions: (1) how agile project management approach can foster creativity in project teams? and (2) which principles and practices promoted by the most popular agile methodologies enhance creativity in project teams? Findings Five creativity-conducive spaces in agile project management were identified and integrated into a conceptual framework, namely, a space for generative social interactions, a space for learning, a space for change and adaptation, a space for exploration and a space promoting team members' well-being. In the next step, based on a thorough analysis of seven widespread agile project management methods, a large number of agile principles and practices were mapped into each of the five conceptual spaces. Originality/value This study provides new insights into how agile project management can foster creativity in project teams. The conceptual framework developed in this paper might be utilized to enhance creativity in agile teams, it can also serve as a starting point for future research.
Chapter
Csikszentmihalyi (1997), in his seminal study of highly creative individuals, writes: “to understand creativity, it is not enough to study the individuals who seem most responsible for a novel idea or a new thing. While necessary and important, their contribution is only a link in a chain, a phase in a process” (p. 7).
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This research explores how group- and organizational-level factors affect errors in administering drugs to hospitalized patients. Findings from patient care groups in two hospitals show systematic differences not just in the frequency of errors, but also in the likelihood that errors will be detected and learned from by group members. Implications for learning in and by work teams in general are discussed.
Book
The goal of this handbook is to provide the most comprehensive, definitive, and authoritative single-volume review available in the field of creativity. The book contains twenty-two chapters covering a wide range of issues and topics in the field of creativity, all written by distinguished leaders in the field. The volume is divided into six parts. The introduction sets out the major themes and reviews the history of thinking about creativity. Subsequent parts deal with methods, origins, self and environment, special topics and conclusions. All educated readers with an interest in creative thinking will find this volume to be accessible and engrossing.
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- This paper describes the process of inducting theory using case studies from specifying the research questions to reaching closure. Some features of the process, such as problem definition and construct validation, are similar to hypothesis-testing research. Others, such as within-case analysis and replication logic, are unique to the inductive, case-oriented process. Overall, the process described here is highly iterative and tightly linked to data. This research approach is especially appropriate in new topic areas. The resultant theory is often novel, testable, and empirically valid. Finally, framebreaking insights, the tests of good theory (e.g., parsimony, logical coherence), and convincing grounding in the evidence are the key criteria for evaluating this type of research.
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Strategy making has changed. No longer is the carefully conducted industry analysis or deliberate strategic plan a guarantee of success. Speed matters. A strategy that takes too long to formulate is at least as ineffective as the wrong strategy. But, how do decision makers make fast, yet high-quality, strategic choices? This article describes the powerful tactics that fast decision makers use. They maintain constant watch over real time operating information and rely on quick, comparative analysis to speed cognitive processing. They favor approaches to conflict resolution which are rapid and yet maintain group cohesion. Finally, their reliance on the private advice of experienced counselors and on integration with other decisions bolsters their confidence to decide quickly in the face of big stakes and high uncertainty. © 1990, The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
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High Reliability Organizations (HROs) have been treated as exotic outliers in mainstream organizational theory because of their unique potentials for catastrophic consequences and interactively complex technology. We argue that HROs are more central to the mainstream because they provide a unique window into organizational effectiveness under trying conditions. HROs enact a distinctive though not unique set of cognitive processes directed at proxies for failure, tendencies to simplify, sensitivity to operations, capabilities for resilience, and temptations to overstructure the system. Taken together these processes induce a state of collective mindfulness that creates a rich awareness of discriminatory detail and facilitates the discovery and correction of errors capable of escalation into catastrophe. Though distinctive, these processes are not unique since they are a dormant infrastructure for process improvement in all organizations. Analysis of HROs suggests that inertia is not indigenous to organizing, that routines are effective because of their variation, that learning may be a byproduct of mindfulness, and that garbage cans may be safer than hierarchies.