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Creativity in Business

A fascination with where creativity comes from and how to cultivate it isn’t a new preoccupation for business thinkers, but I have noticed a flurry of interesting new books published about the construct.  Curiosity got the better of me so I did a search to find out just how many articles were published in the last few years on topic and discovered that indeed there has been an uptick in publications on creativity.  In 2007 the number of business and management papers on creativity leaped and has been on an upward trajectory since.

I wonder if the impetus to understand creativity stems from the pace of technological change and the creative destruction it has brought to corporate giants such as SONY or Kodak or the newspaper industry as a whole, or whether it’s locus is the collective angst experienced by knowledge workers facing uncertain futures, or grows out of policy efforts to spark entrepreneurship and employment.  The source of the zeitgeist may only be discoverable by more imaginative minds, but I’d like to share a few interesting artifacts on the trend found in the Falvey Memorial Library stacks.

The Progress Principle, written by Harvard Business Professor, Teresa Amabile and her husband Steven Kramer, also a doctorate in psychology, presents evidence on the perceptual, emotional and motivational factors that nurture or inhibit individual and team creativity in organizations.  The underlying materials for their analysis are daily questionnaires both short answer and open ended completed by 238 knowledge workers at seven undisclosed marque name companies over a four month period.  Thus  rich quantitative and qualitative data informs the authors’ “checklist” for facilitating progress in teams charged with innovating products and processes.  This book is a wonderful blend of social science and advice that’s fun to read too.  Can you guess which confidentially disguised firms participated in the study?

The Idea Factory, by business journalist Jon Gertner, takes a very different approach to examining the cultivation of creative work in business.  This is a well documented and readable history of the most innovative years of Bell Labs, the AT&T and Western Electric subsidiary founded to do the basic science needed to advance the communications industry in it’s infancy.  The narrative focuses on a few select scientists.  Themes around the source of this exceptional corporate creativity include interdisciplinary team work, well defined top level goals and team autonomy.

In Imagine:  How Creativity Works, science journalist Jonah Lehrer explores the neuroscience behind creative artists such as Bob Dylan and Shakespeare and organizational psychology explanations underpinning seriously serially innovative organizations such as 3M, Eli Lilly and Pixar.  This book was a great read, but sadly has been largely discredited (but as of this writing was still on the NYT’s Business Bestseller List) due to compelling evidence of author fabrications.

To find more books in our collection on creativity and innovation, search our catalog for subjects “creative ability“, “creative ability in business“, “organizational innovation“, “creative thinking” or “technological innovations“.

For scholarship on creativity search Business Source Premier, ABI Inform and PsychInfo.  For videos on innovation in business visit Prendisimo (register with Villanova email), Films on Demand, or ecorner at Stanford.

Like to recommend a book on the power of original thinking or creativity in organizations?  Email me ( with your suggestions!






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Last Modified: October 23, 2012

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