This article is part of THNK VIEWS. We bridge theory and practice on organizing imagination and innovation by extracting key implications and offering new insights to innovation practitioners from a rich database of research papers. This article builds on the research The Antecedents of Creativity Revisited: A Process Perspective by Marjolein Caniëls, Katleen De Stobbeleir, and Inge De Clippeleer. It explains how adaptive and creative leadership can be used to effectively guide creativity.
“If we do not change direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed”, a Chinese proverb says. If only this were true for creativity. The truth is, there are no guarantees when it comes to the complex and unpredictable process of creativity. It is not without reason that adaptive leadership and strategizing have been coined key skills for twenty-first century business management.
Seeking to uncover the antecedents of creativity to enhance the creative process, Marjolein Caniëls, Katleen De Stobbeleir, and Inge De Clippeleer referred to three stages of the creative process: the idea generation, the idea promotion and the idea implementation. They then explored five antecedents of creativity at the various stages of the creative process. Above all else, their findings show that while some factors can greatly benefit creativity at one stage, they can be detrimental in another. In each of the various stages, managing creativity requires different activities. They base their findings on interviews with knowledge workers and employees in creative jobs.
In our experience at THNK, the need for these different activities depends on the amount of creative stretch. The more radical the creative ideas, the more difficult we find it to clearly separate idea generation, promotion, and implementation as separate stages. In breakthrough innovation, for example building a new-to-world business concept, innovators often lack a proven success formula. Therefore, creative leadership seems required in each stage – as is supported by the findings in the cited study.