In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Creativity

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Major Theoretical Frameworks
  • Creative Cognitive Processes
  • Research Design and Measurement Issues
  • Personal Factors Related to Creativity
  • Interactive Effects and Intervening Processes
  • Team-Level Issues
  • Diversity and Creativity
  • Organizational Issues
  • Emerging Issues in Creativity

Management Creativity
Christina E. Shalley, Amy P. Breidenthal
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 November 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 June 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0035


Creativity is considered to be essential for societal and economic growth. At the individual, team, and organizational levels, creativity has been argued to be a key enabler and contributor to performance, entrepreneurship, growth, and competitiveness. Creativity as a research area has evolved over the years. Historically, it has its roots within the field of psychology, which provided a foundation for conceptual and empirical work focused on factors that can enhance or constrain creativity across all different areas (e.g., education, inventors). More recently, the body of work on organizational creativity within management has been growing. Creativity has been defined in two ways: as both a process and an outcome. It is believed that to produce creative outcomes, it is important to first engage in certain cognitive and behavioral processes (e.g., linking ideas from multiple sources, broad search) that can help enable individuals to be more creative in their work. The creative process is an iterative process and involves finding and solving new problems in different ways. Creativity as an outcome has been defined primarily in management as the generation of ideas, solutions, or processes that are novel and useful. Novelty and usefulness are both considered necessary conditions for something to be regarded as creative, so even if an idea is very novel, if it is not also useful or feasible it would not be considered creative. This definition differs from some work in psychology primarily focused on brainstorming, where creative outcomes are often defined in terms of originality (i.e., novelty), fluency (i.e., number of ideas), and flexibility (i.e., number of categories accessed). Individual differences can predispose certain individuals to be more creative, and different factors in the work context can facilitate or inhibit creativity: these personal and contextual factors can interact to affect creativity. Creativity can potentially occur in all different kinds of jobs and at all levels of the organization. Creative ideas or processes also can vary on a continuum from being new but somewhat incremental to those that are radically new and different. Also, within the organizational literature, creativity has been considered to be a necessary but insufficient condition for innovations to occur. The primary distinction between how creativity and innovation is defined is that when focusing on creativity the production of something that is new and useful is stressed, while innovation emphasizes the implementation of new ideas or procedures.

General Overviews

A number of excellent works have been published in both psychology and management that provide a comprehensive overview of the field of creativity. Amabile 1996 gives a historical overview of the literature, reviews social-psychological research on creativity, and presents one of the major theories of creativity that has helped to guide current research. Hennessey and Amabile 2010 reviews the growing psychological literature on creativity and argues that to make more progress in the study of creativity we need to take a systems view of creativity that recognizes a variety of interrelated factors that operate at multiple levels and often are interdisciplinary. George 2007 outlines the theory and research on organizational creativity and focuses on the psychological aspects for both individual and collective creativity. George discusses research that has questioned the fundamental role of intrinsic motivation in mediating the relationship between contextual factors and creativity. Mumford and Gustafson 1988 reviews the literature on the development of innovative occupational achievement. The authors discuss how minor and major creative achievements require different knowledge structures, skills, and abilities. Shalley, et al. 2004 gives a detailed review and integration of empirical research that has focused on different personal and contextual factors that have been found to influence individual and team creativity. The authors highlight areas where there are unanswered questions, areas for future research and theory building, and also methodological issues that should be considered. Runco 2004 discusses work focused on the product, person, process, and press of creativity. Runco also presents different disciplinary approaches to the study of creativity (e.g., behavioral, developmental). Zhou and Shalley 2011 categorizes previous theory and research on creativity in the workplace into three broad categories that represent different aspects of psychological processes, including motivational, cognitive, and affective processes. There is also a recent review of creativity and innovation in Anderson, et al. 2014 that focuses in particular on research from 2002 to 2013. This work presents a guiding framework for driving future research on this topic at the individual, team, and organizational levels.

  • Amabile, Teresa M. Creativity in Context. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1996.

    Originally published in 1983, this book provides a comprehensive discussion of creativity, covering its historical roots and presenting detailed information about empirical studies on creativity. It also presents the componential model of creativity, which has become one of two very dominant theories used for research on creativity.

  • Anderson, Neil, Kristina Potocnik, and Jing Zhou. “Innovation and Creativity in Organizations: A State-of-the-Science Review, Prospective Commentary, and Guiding Framework.” Journal of Management 40.5 (2014): 1247–1333.

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206314527128

    Discusses several theories of creativity and innovation, and then develops a level of analysis framework to review individual, team, and organizational creativity as well as multilevel innovation. The authors highlight eleven overarching themes and pose sixty questions to consider for future research.

  • George, Jennifer M. “Creativity in Organizations.” Academy of Management Annals 1.1 (2007): 439–477.

    DOI: 10.1080/078559814

    Reviews research on conscious and unconscious thinking and positive and negative affect as key intervening processes relevant to understanding creativity. George makes the case for the existence of potentially multiple internal processes that can be operating when examining the work context’s effect on creativity.

  • Hennessey, Beth A., and Teresa M. Amabile. “Creativity.” Annual Review of Psychology 61 (2010): 569–598.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.093008.100416

    This review is more psychological than some of the others and covers some topics not touched on by the other reviews, including the neurological/biological basis for creativity (the “creative brain,” for example) and research on how school environments affect students’ creativity.

  • Mumford, Michael, and Sigrid B. Gustafson. “Creativity Syndrome: Integration, Application, and Innovation.” Psychological Bulletin 103.1 (1988): 27–43.

    DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.103.1.27

    Provides a detailed discussion of how creative achievements can vary from minor to more radical contributions. The authors discuss the cognitive structures and individual differences that differ for both types of contributions. They also call for more multivariate approaches to the study of creativity.

  • Runco, Mark A. “Creativity.” Annual Review of Psychology 55 (2004): 657–687.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.55.090902.141502

    Provides broad coverage of how creativity has been studied in many different areas of psychology from biological treatments to organizational treatments. Runco also covers topics such as implicit theories of creativity and evolutionary approaches.

  • Shalley, Christina E., Jing Zhou, and Greg R. Oldham. “The Effects of Personal and Contextual Characteristics on Creativity: Where Should We Go from Here?” Journal of Management 30.6 (2004): 933–958.

    DOI: 10.1016/

    Gives a detailed review of the current state of research on the personal and contextual factors that are associated with creative performance. The authors also review research that has looked at the interactive effect of these two factors and provide guidance for what future research should examine.

  • Zhou, Jing, and Christina E. Shalley. “Deepening our Understanding of Creativity in the Workplace: A Review of Different Approaches to Creativity Research.” In APA Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Vol. 1, Building and Developing the Organization. Edited by Sheldon Zedeck, 273–302. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2011.

    Covers the essential theoretical frames and arguments in each of the three psychological processes highlighted (motivational, cognitive, and affective) and also reviews representational studies. Furthermore, the researchers discuss promising areas for future research and theorizing.

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