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Exploring the Dark Side of Creativity and Innovation: Conflicts and Complementarities

Presenters: Robert DeFillippi, Jonathan Sapsed,  Marianne Lewis, Lucy Gilson, Michael Frese

The dark side includes unhealthy work practices and poor quality of life, conflicts over standardization versus creativity, individuality versus collaboration, passion versus discipline and other creative tensions. The panel examines these challenges and suggests interventions that manage paradoxes, promote quality of life and balance creative tensions.

Panel Learning Objectives:

1.      Identify the organizational conditions, management practices and individual and group level attributes that foster creative conflicts.
2.      Critically evaluate management and organizational practices that foster innovation and creativity while taking into account the challenges associated with both.
3.      Identify positive practices for promoting a higher quality of life, managing the paradoxes of creative work, and leveraging creative tensions to facilitate effective work outcomes.

Individual Panel Abstracts
Robert DeFillippi: Three Paradoxes of Managing Creative Work and Creative Workers
Two special issues of the Journal of Organizational Behavior have each signalled the need to devote more scholarly attention to the dark side of individual and group innovation (Janssen, De Vliert, and West, 2004) and managing the paradoxes associated with creative work (DeFillippi, Grabher, and Jones, 2007). This panel examines both the dark side and paradoxes of creative and innovative work at multiple levels of analysis (individual, group and organizational) and in multiple industry contexts. DeFillippi examines briefly the difference paradox of whether to craft or standardize organizational practices, the distance paradox of whether to couple or de-couple creative and routine work, and the identity paradox of whether creative careers, reputations and identities should be individually or collectively developed.
Learning Outcomes:
  1. Identify three paradoxes relevant to creative work and creative workers.
  2. Identify some possible resolutions of the above paradoxes found in creative industries and creative organizations.


Jonathan Sapsed: Suffering for Art in the Creative Industries

Amabile’s classic (1988) studies of creativity show that too much pressure ‘chills’ creativity in work tasks, but, a degree of ‘challenge’ stimulates creativity, appealing to the intrinsic motivation of creative professionals. However research has shown that in some creative sectors this can be a powerful mix of tendencies and incentives leading to unhealthy work practices and quality of life. International research from creative industries such as video games development and independent television production has shown excessive ‘crunching’ to complete over-designed projects, the endurance of lower pay and more insecure conditions than is found in comparable professions, and a culture of reported “breakdown, rather than vacation leave”. Some argue that the attractiveness of these industries to creative people means a privileged few attain exploitative jobs, with the knowledge that a reserve army of labour is in waiting. My presentation will discuss some current progressive management approaches to these problems, as well as some individual coping strategies.
Learning Objectives: 
  1. To integrate concepts of creativity and motivation, with empirical research on working conditions in the creative industries.
  2. To critically evaluate management approaches to balancing quality of life, with creative outcomes, and project delivery.  
Marianne Lewis: Leveraging Creative Tensions: Dangers and Management of Vicious Cycles
As organizations strive to foster creativity, tensions offer valuable fuel but pose challenging barriers. To unpack creative tensions, we conducted inductive studies of five, award-winning firms in the product design industry – a setting renowned for innovation leadership. Our results identify creative tensions at multiple levels: breakthroughs-profit (organization), individuality-collaboration (group), and passion-discipline (individual). Informants across positions, disciplines and firms stressed dangers of emphasizing one pole, explicating how such single-mindedness may spark vicious cycles that derail creativity. This presentation will examine those tensions, the dangers of vicious cycles and the potential power of paradox management.
Learning Objectives:
  1. Identify dangers of creative tensions and the potential cycles they may spark.
  2. Assess management approaches that leverage tensions to fuel creativity.
Lucy Gilson: Outcomes of Creativity Across Levels and the Interplay Between Creativity and Standardization
It is almost universally acknowledged that creativity is a desirable outcome to individual employees, groups, and organizations. However, while the benefits of creativity are often extolled, little is actually known about the outcomes associated with creativity in organizational settings, and even less is known about the relationship with outcomes that may not be favourable. Creativity is a truly a multi-level construct (Drazin, Glynn & Kazanjian, 1999) and therefore, since we know a great deal about the drivers of creativity (i.e., individual goals (Shalley, 1991) and group goals (Gilson & Shalley, 2004)) it is now time to expand our focus to the outcomes associated with creativity across levels. In addition, my presentation will discuss the interplay between creativity and standardization as conflicting and complementary drivers of outcomes (Gilson et al., 2005). Given that organizations seem to place a premium on both creativity and standardisation - how do these seemingly antithetical techniques work together, and what can managers do to enhance rather than suppress them.
Learning Objectives:
  1. This presentation will describe the importance and potential risks associated with creativity for employees, group, and ultimately organizational level outcomes.
  2. To critically evaluate management approaches to balancing creative and standardized work practices.