“A Model of Creativity and Innovation in Organizations”

Author Teresa M. Amabile

Summary by Seoyoun (Albert) Oh


Have you ever wondered what makes a person creative? How about the relationship between a person or individuals, and an organization in innovation? Teresa M. Amabile, the author of a research paper, “A Model of Creativity and Innovation in Organizations,” has conducted multiple experiments to address the aforementioned questions.


The experiments were carried out in the interview format where participants were asked to describe two events from their work experience: one that embodied high creativity and the other that embodied low creativity.

In conclusion, they found that individual ingenuity and organizational innovations had a close, intertwined relationship, and that individual qualities that make someone more creative were less frequently mentioned than environmental qualities that have an effect on individuals’ imaginativeness in both the high and the low creativity incidents.


In the paper, creativity was defined as “a production of novel and useful ideas by an individual or small group of individuals working together” while organizational innovation was defined as “the successful implementation of creative ideas within an organization.”


The author hopes that the study not only promotes further research in the direction of greatest needs for information but also functions as the guiding principle that nurtures imaginative practices for both individuals and organizations.


As one of the biggest components of organizations, individuals conglomerate into one body, driving and deciding how the company culture will be. As a result, what qualities make each person can essentially shape how the organization operates. Hence when interviewees were asked to describe personal traits that either promote or obstruct novelty, the following were the commonly mentioned characters in the order of most frequently mentioned to the least:


  1. various personality traits such as persistence, curiosity, energy, and intellectual honesty,

  2. self-motivation for being attracted to challenges and being committed to working,

  3. special cognitive abilities such as problem-solving and critical thinkability,

  4. openness and orientation to risks,

  5. expertise in the area expressed through talent, experience, and knowledge,

  6. qualities and synergy of the team,

  7. diverse experiences to allow for possessing general, extensive knowledge in various fields,

  8. social skill by being a good team player and exhibiting a good rapport with others,

  9. brilliance meaning having a high intelligence level, and

  10. naivete that brings forth non-biased mindsets without preconceptions.


In contrast, the following were the commonly mentioned natures of individuals that inhibit originality in the order of most frequently mentioned to the least:


  1. unmotivated,

  2. unskilled,

  3. inflexible,

  4. externally motivated where an individual is motivated by money, recognition, or other facts other than the work itself, and

  5. socially unskilled.


All of these factors can be put into three categories that create the componential model of individual creativity: domain-relevant skills (factual, technical, and special knowledge in the realm of the question and the problem), creativity-relevant skills (inventing and trying new approaches to problems), and intrinsic task motivation (an individual’s attitude to taking on a task whether it be positive or negative).


Although they all operate at different levels of specificity from creativity-relevant skills operating at the most general level to intrinsic motivation to intrinsic task motivation functioning at the most specific level, each component is necessary for some level of innovation to be produced; the higher the level of each of the three component is, the higher the overall quality and the level of novelty would be. When they are all put into one pathway, as shown in Figure 1, they create a map of how individuals build creative solutions to complex questions and problems.



Depending on the outcome of a cycle after stage 5, how a person delivered the result by using ingenuity can directly influence task motivation and indirectly affect domain-relevant and creativity-relevant skills. Regarding task motivation, the more successful the output of a cycle is, the more motivated an individual will undertake similar but not the exactly same task in the future.


Naturally, a higher intrinsic motivation level will influence a person to be more open to taking risks, thus improving creativity-relevant skills. Not only that, a higher intrinsic motivation level may motivate an individual to learn more about the task and about related subjects, thereby increasing domain-relevant skills. Indeed, external motivation is needed to a certain degree in addition to inherent motivation.


However, people will be most creative when they are primarily motivated to resolve issues by pure, internal interest, enjoyment, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself. The reason is that an intrinsically motivated individual will be more likely to spend cognitive energy in trying out new ways to solve problems.

Switching gears, it’s important to note that an individual’s novelty can be influenced by outer constraints coming from organizations at where the individual works.


The followings were the environmental factors that were depicted by interviewees to promote newness:


  1. freedom to have control over one’s own work and ideas,

  2. good project management done by a manager who serves as a role model with great leadership skills,

  3. sufficient resources to facilities, equipment, people, funds, and materials,

  4. encouragement for new ideas from the management,

  5. various organizational characteristics where a feasible creation is prized and a failure is not fatal,

  6. recognition through rewards and feedback,

  7. sufficient time to explore and think creatively,

  8. a sense of challenge arising from the thought-provoking aspect of the problem itself, and

  9. pressure generated by competition and urgency.


Whereas the followings were the environmental characters portrayed by the interviewees to impede originality:


  1. various organizational characteristics where there is no reward to creation but there exists a lack of collaboration,

  2. constraint to the extent of autonomy in making decisions and performing responsibilities,

  3. organizational disinterest in creative projects,

  4. poor project management with no clear instruction and direction,

  5. excessive evaluation of one’s performance,

  6. insufficient resources,

  7. time pressure that prevents a thorough exploration of a matter,

  8. overemphasis on the status quo by being stubborn and traditional, and

  9. excessive competition that cultivates a self-defensive attitude.


In order for an organization to remedy its shortcomings and be successful in formulating a place where employees can be as creative as they want, all levels of management should be involved in the process. The highest level of management should set the overall organizational climate where creating novel ideas and products are encouraged. The middle levels of management and project management should establish and communicate project goals and timeframes, provide feedback, and set levels of freedom and constraints. Co-workers can influence one another by demonstrating varying levels of expertise, technical expertise, and social skills. Everything considered, Figure 2 shows the componential model of organizational innovation that displays the interaction between individuals and organizations: how they interact with each other and the sequences of steps.


It is not uncommon for people to fail when they approach a problem with a mundane, standardized solution, which is where the need for originality steps in. However, ingenuity is not limited to its usage in solving problems. It is also used to drive innovations and introduce novel products and ideas into the world. Given the gravity of how pertinent creativity is for both individuals and organizations, the paper addressed factors that drive innovation within individuals and organizations. To sum up, creativity is the highest when all of resources, techniques, and motivation overlap. I urge you to reflect on and analyze how you and your organization have been in the past. The key to success is handed over to you. Now, it’s a matter of how you use it to open the door that leads to the next step.


Original source.


Works Cited

Amabile, T. M. (1988). A Model of Creativity and Innovation in Organizations. Research in Organizational Behavior,10, 123-167. Retrieved October 7, 2020, from http://web.mit.edu/curhan/www/docs/Articles/15341_Readings/Group_Performance/Amabile_A_Model_of_CreativityOrg.Beh_v10_pp123-167.pd



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