Affect and Creativity at Work

Posted: 11 Nov 2009

See all articles by Teresa M. Amabile

Teresa M. Amabile

Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit

Sigal G. Barsade

University of Pennsylvania - Management Department

Jennifer S. Mueller

University of Pennsylvania - Management Department

Barry Staw

University of California, Berkeley - Organizational Behavior & Industrial Relations Group

Date Written: 2005

Abstract

Creativity and innovation are recognized as keyto a firm's competitive advantage. Considerable research has investigated howto foster (or impede) organizational innovation. Creativity is an emotionally charged event, in which cognitive processes areshaped by, and shape emotional experience. This study investigates the role ofaffect on creativity in the workplace by examining the valence (positive ornegative affect), intensity, ambivalence, and lability (change in mood).Variation (novelty) and selection are central to theories of creativity,and affect is one source of variation. Several questions are considered: Is thelink between affect and creativity positive or negative? Is it linear orcurvilinear? Are there effects of intensity, ambivalence, or lability? The research was based on quantitative and qualitative data on affect andcreativity collected over several months from 222 individuals who were membersof 26 project teams from seven companies in three industries. Measures of moodand creativity were devised. Found that positive mood was associated withhigher levels of creativity; there was no evidence of curvilinear relationship.There were no significant associations between affective ambivalence andcreative thought or activity. Four temporal patterns were found: affect can bea direct antecedent to creativity, affect can be a direct consequence ofcreativity, affect can be an indirect consequence of creativity, and affect canoccur simultaneously with creative activity. On the basis of a general theory of affect and creativity in organizations,a theoretical model is presented that incorporates a process by which affectfunctions as an accompaniment to creative activity, a direct and indirectconsequence of creative thinking. The model suggests a more prominent role foraffect than current organization theories of creativity admit. Positive affectmay lead to the cognitive variation that stimulates creativity. Three effectsof positive affect on creativity are identified. Negative affect also has beenclaimed to influence creativity; but empirical literature suggests a greaterlink for positive affect. The model accounts for the influence of positive affect on cognitivevariation, the incubation process, creativity provoking an emotional reactionin the creator, the creative act as an emotional experience itself, the linkbetween creativity and organizational events, and the affect-creativity cycle.(TNM)

Keywords: Innovation process, Creativity, Idea generation, Emotions, Organization theory, Cognitive theory

Suggested Citation

Amabile, Teresa M. and Barsade, Sigal G. and Mueller, Jennifer S. and Staw, Barry, Affect and Creativity at Work (2005). University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership Historical Research Reference in Entrepreneurship, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1503847

Teresa M. Amabile (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02163
United States

Sigal G. Barsade

University of Pennsylvania - Management Department ( email )

The Wharton School
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6370
United States

Jennifer S. Mueller

University of Pennsylvania - Management Department ( email )

The Wharton School
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6370
United States

Barry Staw

University of California, Berkeley - Organizational Behavior & Industrial Relations Group ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720
United States
510-642-6357 (Phone)

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