- Organizations encourage employees to be creative, but a University of Illinois study found that being creative is a personal experience that exposes workers' personal viewpoints and preferences, thereby putting them at risk in the workplace. Co-author Jack Goncalo, a professor of business administration at the university's Gies College of Business, told the Illinois News Bureau that the investigation into the interpersonal consequences of creativity concluded that whether creativity entails the "latest scientific breakthrough" or "creating a collaborative work of art," it requires workers to openly express their ideas and possibly invite criticism from colleagues.
- "One of the things organizations often tell their employees is be creative, but that's not a benign instruction," Goncalo told the university. "When you're being creative, you're sharing something about yourself and allowing others to make judgments about you. I think people — both managers and employees — should be mindful of the risks involved. There ought to be some caution flags raised around the idea that employees can be freely creative, unless you go through a lot of hoops to make sure there aren't consequences."
- When employees' ideas are rejected, the message is that their personal point of view is being rejected, said Goncalo and co-author Joshua H. Katz. Goncalo said the rejection comes "dangerously close" to repudiating employees as people. Goncalo added that when study subjects were told to be creative, they thought about expressing their own likes and dislikes, and less about what others thought.
Organizations need — and actively recruit — creative and innovative workers, especially as they adopt technologies to grow and maintain a competitive edge. However, the study's assertion that creative expression opens workers up to admonishment adds a new dimension to the current need for ingenuity at work.
Workhuman's 2019 International Employee Survey concluded that, in the wake of fear about artificial intelligence and robotics replacing humans in the labor force, companies have an opportunity to leverage employees' creativity and innovation. This goes hand-in-hand with making trust, respect and autonomy cultural priorities, the report said. In short, because people are central to the sustainability of work, workplaces that encourage creativity but curb innovative ideas may need to revise or, if necessary, overhaul their culture.
The debate continues over whether technology will replace thousands of jobs or whether it will usher in more jobs than it eliminates. However, according to a report from cloud computing firm ServiceNow, technology also can encourage greater productivity among employees. In fact, the report showed that high automation levels can create "digital workflows," whereby humans work with machines to transition from performing repetitive tasks to doing more creative work. Based on the report, employees and machines can work harmoniously side by side and be both creative and productive.