The Anti-Creative Corporate Culture

Most organizations are bad at creating a culture of innovation. Why?  Because most managers don’t have a creative bone in their bodies, and the environment that they create is not conducive to creativity.

Creativity depends on an individuals skills, both expertise in their area of endeavour and creativity skills.  However, creativity also depends on an organization’s work environment, which impacts our intrinsic motivation.  (Amabile, 1989)

According to Amabile and Gryskiewicz (1989), there are four factors that restrain creativity.  1) too much time pressure; 2) too much evaluation; 3) a strong pre-disposition for the status quo; and, 4) a strong emphasis on organizational politics.

Many of the chuckleheads running today’s organizations are so wrapped up in urgency and in organizational politics that they kill the motivation to innovate. There is just too much risk for the average employee to be creative.  Especially if their direct boss is not creative. 

So step one in creating an innovative culture? Eliminate the people and processes that are restraining creativity.  Catch someone doing something creative, and reward them for it.  Clean house, get rid of those who are limiting your innovation potential.  Stop evaluating creative ideas before their time. 

CEOs need to walk the talk.  Are you the person limiting the creative motivation of your organization?  If so, you need to change your ways, or stop talking about innovation.


Amablile, Teresa. How work environments affect creativity. (1989). Proceedings of the IEEE Interantional Conference on Systems, Man and Cybernetics. 1. pp. 50 –55.

Amabile, Teresa and Gryskiewicz, Nur. Creative Environment Scales. Creativity Research Journal. Vol. 2:4. p. 231-253 (1989).


Categories: Creativity

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2 replies »

  1. I think that Amabile and Gryskiewicz (1989) are pointing out just the symptoms of restrained creativity. Consider:
    . Creativity leads to new knowledge;
    . New knowledge leads to change;
    . Change leads to obsolescence;
    . Obsolescence leads to being replaced.
    If you spent your entire career climbing the corporate ladder by being creative so that you could tag a position as CEO/Manager/Boss, what is the first thing you are likely to do. You will use your creative skills to protect yourself in a fashion that those whom you have replaced on your way up didn’t. In government you simply make sure those working under you are always dumber than you. In the corporate world you need results and goal oriented success so you create, “1) too much time pressure; 2) too much evaluation; 3) a strong pre-disposition for the status quo; and, 4) a strong emphasis on organizational politics.”
    Creativity is there, it’s just used to “cover my butt” so that some fool kid with a lot of savvy and creativity doesn’t make me “OBSOLETE”.
    Creativity, new knowledge and change, they’re all wasted on the accomplished.

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