The purpose of this paper is to elicit a conceptual understanding of the moderating effect of trustworthiness on the relationship between organisational culture and employee creativity.
This study is theoretical in nature and draws conceptual insights from an integration of theoretical and conceptual underpinnings: the competing values framework, trustworthiness from the integrative model of organisational trust and the componential theory of individual creativity.
Trustworthiness plays a major role in influencing the degree at which managers engender employee creativity. This study postulates that clan and adhocracy organisational culture dimensions have a positive impact on employee creativity, while market and hierarchy organisational culture dimensions have negative impacts on employee creativity. Employee creativity would be engendered if organisational cultures are tailored towards improving the ability of employees. Engendering of employee creativity is contingent on an acceptable degree of benevolence and integrity expressed between managers and their respective employees.
By integrating several methodological underpinnings to produce a multidimensional model for engendering employee creativity, from the lens of a supportive organisational culture, this study offers novel insights for both managerial practice and actions.
Ogbeibu, S., Senadjki, A. and Luen Peng, T. (2018), "An organisational culture and trustworthiness multidimensional model to engender employee creativity", American Journal of Business, Vol. 33 No. 4, pp. 179-202. https://doi.org/10.1108/AJB-12-2017-0043Download as .RIS
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The impacts of a supportive organisational culture relay a necessity for managers to re-evaluate their strategies for managing the creativity of their employees. In order to remain competitive in the long run, organisations need to understand the significance of trustworthiness in facilitating the diffusion of creative ideas, and its role of guiding organisational members towards engendering employee creativity. By engendering employee creativity, organisations may be able to build strong resilience against a future of dire uncertainties and constant change. The impact of operating a non-supportive organisational culture has been experienced by corporations across the globe (Dong, 2002; Huston and Sakkab, 2006; Peterson, 2005). Increasing changes in innovation have also prompted a need to critically consider the significances of a creative workforce, engineered by a strong and supportive organisational culture (Porter et al., 2016). It is debated by extant research that organisational culture impacts could reflect either negative or positive outcomes (Karamipour et al., 2015; Mobarakeh, 2011). Nevertheless, how the probable distinct impacts are actually exemplified yet lacks sufficient attention, and therefore, requires a further holistic exploration into the nature of organisational culture from a multidimensional perspective (Amiri et al., 2014). This is important to deepen the insights into what specific organisational culture dimension(s) mirror negative or positive outcomes, and thereby, relate immense significance in engendering employee creativity within the organisation (Batovrina, 2016). Studies (Agnieszka and Dariusz, 2016; Aguirre et al., 2009) have noted that firms that can survive in the long run are those that operate an organisational culture which supports employees to be more creative and also create an atmosphere of trust which fosters creation and diffusion of creative ideas. When an organisational culture is not very supportive of employee creativity, it could almost inevitably face poor growth challenges as it struggles to maintain a competitive advantage in the long run (Yetundee and Aluko, 2012). It is, thus, important to ensure employee creativity is consistently engendered and in congruence to global change in business environments (Afsar, 2016; Marinova et al., 2015).
Employees are a most valued asset to any organisation, and especially a function of the organisation that generates creative ideas (Amabile and Pillemer, 2012). Hence, there is a need to ensure employees should feel motivated and supported by their respective organisational cultures (Chang and Nadine, 2014). This notion is also supported by studies (Aguirre et al., 2009; Biswas and Varma, 2012; Björkman et al., 2013; Olalere and Adesoji, 2013) that have emphasised that a supportive organisational culture helps engender employee creativity. Similarly, extant research has espoused that several factors have been postulated to foster employee creativity (Amabile and Mueller, 2008; McLean, 2005; Mehlika et al., 2014). In the psychology and social sciences disciplines, a major factor known as trustworthiness has also been advocated to either inhibit or engender employee creativity (Bradley et al., 2014; Braun et al., 2013; Rebecca and David, 2015). It is accentuated that trustworthiness could influence the degree of employee creativity by affecting the level of diffusion of creative ideas among employees (Upasna, 2014). However, the extent to which trustworthiness may affect the creativity of employees under diverse organisational cultures is yet to be given considerable attention (Chang and Nadine, 2014). This is due to the distinct values exemplified under diverse organisational cultures. It is, thus, important to emphasise that the impacts of trustworthiness perceptions in terms of its multidimensional nature (abilities, benevolence and integrity) on employee creativity may vary under diverse organisational cultures (Heyns and Rothmann, 2015; Mayer et al., 1995; Neal et al., 2016; Liu et al., 2016). This present study, therefore, attempts to address these gaps in the literature by identifying the distinct organisational culture dimensions from the literature and examining their distinct impacts on employee creativity. As a point of departure into a broader viewpoint, this study seeks to further explore how trustworthiness influences the impact of organisational culture on employee creativity. This is with a prime focus on engendering employee creativity mainly from a trustworthiness multidimensional perspective.
2. Things that have been learned: a theoretical glance
Employee creativity in this study refers to a cognitive process of an employee(s) that incorporates the development of a creative idea(s) concerning a product, service or process and provides solution to a problem(s) or improves upon existing idea(s) towards the addition of value, and novelty in any given domain (Amabile, 1988; Sternberg, 2012). For several decades, early employee creativity scientists have guided their perceptions of employee creativity on the precipice that it is initiated by creative people (Hennessey and Amabile, 2010). This has resulted in a person-centred approach to creativity. Even though this ideology has produced some vital discoveries, they are often limited to backgrounds, creative thinking styles and work styles of very creative employees, as well as individual personal traits (Amabile, 1988; Hennessey and Amabile, 2010; Kalis et al., 2014; Palmiero et al., 2014). Hennessey and Amabile (2010) postulated that this is due to less offering of substantial findings to experts who desire to improve upon the creativity concept. The authors further opined that the concept of creativity originates via a system of interconnected forces, functioning at diverse levels and as such requires interdisciplinary investigation.
As a guide, this study, therefore, draws on the componential theory of individual creativity (an individual-level phenomenon) by Amabile (1997). This theory highlights that irrespective of employee domain and time, employees possess the natural capacity and are capable of producing at least moderately creative efforts. It also stresses that the culture of an organisation can influence both the levels and occurrences of employee creative behaviours distinctively (Amabile et al., 1996; Birdi et al., 2016). This theory asserts that when competencies of employees overlap with their highest intrinsic interests, passions and aspirations, their distinct potentials for creativity tend to increase. Likewise, the higher the level of commitment towards creativity, the higher the probability that employee creativity would increase.
This theory highlights three main dimensions which are expertise, creativity skills and task motivation (Amabile, 1988, 1997). Birdi et al. (2016) opine that expertise is a supporting dimension for all creative efforts. The author stressed that it is unavoidably vital for use in almost any specific task or to solve a particular issue. Expertise may consist of memories of factual knowledge, technical proficiencies and excellent talents across several target work domains. Creativity skills, otherwise identified as domain relevant skills, reflect an added effort of performance that can be observed in any creative behaviour (Amabile, 1988; Byrge et al., 2014). Creativity skills in this regard also relate to intellectual processing styles by which problems are explored from several novel viewpoints or cognitive pathways (Kaufman and Beghetto, 2009; Kaufman, 2012). Conversely, task motivation may be observed as intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. This theory asserts that intrinsic task motivation is usually driven by deep involvement and interest in the defined task(s). Mendonca et al. (2017) also support that when intrinsic motivation is high, it might supplement or make up for a deficiency of both or either creativity skills or expertise.
Extrinsic task motivation reflects a desire to fulfil set goals that are set apart from the defined task(s) (Beltrán-Martín and Bou-Llusar, 2018). These goals may be publicity or promised rewards (Dewett, 2007). Although expertise and creativity skills might determine an employee’s capabilities within a particular domain, task motivation reflects the employee’s actual behaviour (Dewett, 2007). This theory further argues that to exhibit creativity, an employee may rely on just expertise. However, all the creativity dimensions are vital, as an increase in the degree of components would mean an increase in the highest employee creativity level (Amabile and Mueller, 2008). Ndaliman et al. (2015) espouse that task motivated employees often engage in the work of a creative process. The authors argue that task motivation determines the degree to which an employee may effusively engage his creative skills and expertise. The componential theory of individual creativity, thus, highlights a robust view through which employee creativity may be examined and further improved upon. It gives insight into engendering an effective generation of creative ideas that could consequently foster employee creativity (Anderson et al., 2014). However, the componential theory of individual creativity overlooked the concept of trustworthiness (an individual-level phenomenon) as a major determinant that could further aid to engender employee creativity (Mayer et al. 1995).
Trustworthiness plays a major role in engendering the effective exchange of creative ideas (Bing and Chenyan, 2015; Heyns and Rothmann, 2015). It takes a certain degree of a manager’s trustworthiness perceptions of an employee to get the same manager to commit sufficient resources towards an employee’s creative ideas and creativity initiatives (Anderson et al., 2014; Batovrina, 2016). A certain degree of trustworthiness could also be needed to cause employees to decide on being willing to share their creative ideas. As one of the implications for management, Amabile (1997) strongly stresses the orientation of managers towards the generation, communication, development and exchange of creative ideas. It is, thus, logical to highlight that the exchange of creative ideas may require an already existing interpersonal relationship that is built upon high trustworthiness perceptions. Pay et al. (2015) espouse that trustworthiness is a major bedrock in which interpersonal relationships involving trust can be built. Trustworthiness is thus expedient to foster the fruition and diffusion of creative ideas among employees (Ghosh, 2015; Liu et al., 2016; Won-Moo et al., 2016). Employees that perceive managers as less trustworthy or untrustworthy may not be willing to exhibit certain creative behaviours. This may consequently limit the extent of engendering employee creativity within an organisation. Nevertheless, Amabile et al. (1996) and Amabile and Mueller (2008) further opined that employee creativity should reflect its highest degree when an intrinsically motivated employee with high expertise and high creativity skills exhibit creative behaviours within a highly supportive organisational culture.
Recall that to achieve any creative output in organisations, an engendered employee creativity that is anchored on a flexible and supportive organisational culture may be required (Amabile and Pillemer, 2012; Amiri et al., 2014). Without a supportive organisational culture, managers may inevitably face major impediments in course of navigating through constant changes (Batovrina, 2016; Ghosh, 2015; Graen, 2009; Hoskins, 2014). Although Amabile (1997) further identified the organisational culture as a major obstacle that could hinder creativity, it is important to note that the organisational culture can also be a major facilitator. Hence, its consequences could be binary in nature (Gupta, 2011). Previous empirical and theoretical works have emphasised on the negative and positive impacts of organisation culture on employee creativity. Studies such as Davenport and Prusak (2009), Naranjo-Valencia et al. (2010), Wang et al. (2011), Arabioun et al. (2012), Moghali and Maleki (2009), Kenny and Reedy (2007), Dubkevics (2015) and Telli (2016) had confirmed the existence of a positive relationship between organisational culture and employee creativity. These studies emphasise that employees tend to be more creative when they have more freedom and an encouraging working climate. Likewise, studies such as Rastgoo (2017), Mclean (2005), Tabarsa et al. (2010), Castiglione (2008), Tushman and O’Reilly (1997) and Martins and Martins (2002) debate that it is very unlikely to achieve an anticipated level of creative ideas generation needed for bolstering employee creativity without providing a supportive organisational culture for it. This is because a supportive organisational culture could effectively influence the way creative ideas are enthused, supported and implemented.
Conversely, organisational culture could also hinder the level of employee creativity. This is supported by previous studies such as Kanter (1983), Lukic et al. (2014), Oldham and Cummings (1996) and Amabile (1998). These studies have pointed out that employees are less creative when they work under an organisational culture that does not sufficiently support employee creativity in terms of provision of relevant resources, and flexible control. Additionally, an organisational culture that is characterised by many bureaucracies often ends up discouraging employees from taking extra steps to solve problems and develop creative solutions. Unsupportive organisational cultures could weaken employee creativity by dampening employee’s willingness to exhibit creative behaviours. Nevertheless, how organisational culture mirrors such dual impact yet lacks sufficient attention, as several studies (Naqshbandi and Kamel, 2017; Naranjo-Valencia et al., 2010) have overlooked a thorough exploration of the organisational culture dimensions. More also, several studies (Einsteine and Hwang, 2007; Gupta, 2011; Karamipour et al., 2015; Mobarakeh, 2011) have also overlooked the relationship between organisational culture and employee creativity, from a trustworthiness perspective. This present study aims to address these gaps by exploring the concepts of organisational culture and trustworthiness from a multidimensional perspective in order to further deepen the insights into how organisational culture and trustworthiness dimensions impact employee creativity.
Organisational culture is a group-level phenomenon that is perceived differently by different organisations (Shin et al., 2016). This may be due to the distinct dimensions in which it manifests (Ellen and Nico, 2002; Hamza et al., 2011; Hoskins, 2014; Martha et al., 2002; Porter et al., 2016). Hofstede and McCrae (2004, p. 58) assert that the organisational culture refers to the “collective programming of the mind that distinguishes one group or category of people from another”. According to Schein (2010), the formation of organisational culture is often guided by perceptions of its definition. However, not much has been done concerning a shift beyond a descriptive level to identify and examine processes endemic to organisational culture formation (Hofstede, 2015). The organisational culture concept reflects extensive dissimilarities in the methodologies utilised for its measurement. Considering that organisational culture definitions highlight a lack of direct congruence with each other, its process-oriented methodologies, however, do reflect underlying ideologies that may accentuate intersecting patterns of creative behaviours (Cameron, 2008; Mehlika et al., 2014). This may be observed through a variety of dimensions which are equally represented by a multiplicity of integrated and shared values (Hamza et al., 2011; Kpakol et al., 2016). Cameron and Quinn’s (2011) competing values framework highlights the adhocracy, clan, market and hierarchical dimensions of organisational culture. Each dimension of organisational culture reflects distinct values that point out both situational analysis and objective purposes for deciding on the applicability of each dimension.
The adhocracy organisational culture dimension reflects an entrepreneurial and creative workforce. It comprises of organisational members who are mostly risk takers and who have the drive to commit towards innovations and scientific experimentations. A focus in this organisational culture dimension is the achievement of unique and novel products and services (Heritage et al. 2014). Clan organisational culture dimension mirrors a responsive environment that could facilitate creativity initiatives. Within this dimension, employees share a lot of values with each other. This is due to an organisation operating as a family or set of best friends (Cameron and Quinn, 2006). The market organisational culture dimension is mostly result oriented. It is characterised by organisational managers who are defined by their productiveness, directive capabilities, competitiveness and focus. Managers appear to be quite tough and demanding with a prime focus on winning. To managers, success may be defined in terms of market penetration and share (Cameron and Quinn, 2011). The hierarchy organisational culture dimension reflects very structured and formalized work systems. It often consists of already prescribed procedures, strict rules and routines which govern employee behavioural actions. Managers appear to be coordinated, efficient and organised (Cameron and Quinn, 2006).
Schein (2010) advocates that the organisational culture reflects a form of primary assumptions elicited by a group with relation to solving external adaptation and internal integration issues, of which after a proven validity could be taught as the right approach to perceive, feel and think in respect to those issues. The organisational culture comprises of values that may or may not be receptive to new ideas (Chang and Nadine, 2014). Thus, Martha et al. (2002) also opined that the organisational culture is “the pattern of variations within a society, or, more specifically, as the pattern of deep-level values and assumptions associated with societal effectiveness, shared by an interacting group of people” (p. 276). Martins and Terblanche (2003) further defined organisational culture as “the deeply seated (often subconscious) values and beliefs shared by personnel in an organisation” (p. 65). Therefore, an effective integration of the organisational culture values and employee values could subsequently aid to foster employee creativity (Amabile and Pillemer, 2012; Kpakol et al., 2016; Kyvik et al., 2012).
This is an individual-level phenomenon (Hennessey and Amabile, 2010). Employee creativity relates a distinctively human capacity to produce novel ideas, build uniquely upon existing ideologies which reflect novel approaches and suggests new solutions (Amabile and Pillemer, 2012). It is an intellectual process of an employee that integrates the development of a creative idea(s) concerning a process, service or product and builds towards the addition of value and novelty in any given domain (Amabile, 1988; Eleni et al., 2014; Sternberg, 2012). Batovrina (2016) further stressed that employee creativity is a core factor that drives organisations forward. Since the 1990s, studies on employee creativity have increased exponentially, with distinct topics reflecting different methodologies and perspectives of the creativity phenomenon (Afsar, 2016; Hennessey and Amabile, 2010).
In light of engendering employee creativity, studies have centred on creative thinking techniques, creative personality and even recent employee creativity research paradigms advocate and build upon the social psychology of creativity perspectives (Batovrina, 2016; Kalis et al., 2014; Kaufman and Beghetto, 2009; Kaufman, 2012; Palmiero et al., 2014; Silvia et al., 2012). However, despite the myriad creativity studies, a review compilation by Hennessey and Amabile (2010) yet highlights a growing fragmentation of the creativity research field. The authors opine convincingly concerning the lack of consensus and diversity of opinions rupturing the employee creativity field. This fracture could unequivocally have led to the growing diversity of views towards the several definitions, approaches, and methodologies of employee creativity. Thus, there is a need to provoke a universal creativity underpinning that can encompass the different views into the approaches and methodologies of employee creativity. Hence, Anderson et al. (2014) espoused that the concept of creativity is the creation of novel, applicable and suitable ideas in any realm of human tasks. These tasks could range from business, education and to tasks in everyday life, respectively. The authors highlight that by critically examining the expertise, creative thinking styles and task motivation of an employee, one may be able to further comprehend the complexities surrounding the employee creativity phenomenon. Ghosh (2015), therefore, argued that in order to make genuine steps to engender the creativity of an employee who may be a scientist, artist or mathematician, organisations must embrace a far more robust comprehension of the employee creativity phenomenon. Since engendering employee creativity may also mean the effective exchange of creative ideas, note that it might also require an employee to exhibit a great deal of trustworthiness (Granot, 2011; Pay et al., 2015; Liu et al., 2016).
Sequel to the integrative model of organisational trust by Mayer et al. (1995), trustworthiness refers to an antecedent of trust. Trustworthiness highlights three dimensions such as ability, benevolence and integrity upon which trust could be built. Since trust may be required before creative behaviours are established, and ideas exchange among employees, trustworthiness also determines the extent to which an employee may be willing to trust another employee or manager (Wuthisatian et al., 2017). Thus, the degree to which one employee would trust is usually dependent upon the level of perceived trustworthiness of the other employee or manager (Shainesh, 2012). According to Mayer et al. (1995), ability is a component of trustworthiness that relates to a set of proficiencies that an employee may possess within a certain domain(s). Ability could also be intellectual skills that address new paths of problem identification. It could also reflect an extra effort of creative behaviour. Therefore, within this study’s context, ability may include styles of cognitive thinking that support taking novel viewpoints on problems (Amabile and Pillemer, 2012). It involves the application of aptitudes and techniques tailored towards the exploration of new intellectual pathways (Rebecca and David, 2015).
Conversely, the extent to which an employee is perceived to possess and display good intentions is denoted as benevolence (Mayer et al., 1995). This is with regards that creative ideas of employees might often be based on moral intentions and moral beliefs. The benevolence factor is considered to be the trustee’s positive orientation towards the trustor (Jovana et al., 2014). It reflects a link of specific attachment between the employees. Moreover, the third factor is known as integrity. Integrity relates to the trustor’s responsiveness towards a set of values and ethics that is perceived as acceptable by the same trustor and is extremely adhered to by the trustee (Mayer et al., 1995). By adhering to the set of values and ethics, the trustee may display accountability as well. Assertions regarding employee creative behaviours may be further assessed via a review of their credit reports that highlights details of past creative activities, sense of fairness and accuracy of their statements in congruence with their creative actions (Schoorman et al., 2007). Although, compared to benevolence, the trustor’s judgement on both ability and integrity may form rapidly, it is vital to note that it often takes time to build benevolence (Pay et al., 2015). It is thus logical to argue that the trustworthiness components are theoretically distinct and play a core role of determining the degree at which employees may be willing to exchange creative ideas that could be geared towards engendering employee creativity.
The concept of trustworthiness has received numerous attention over the years. Studies have examined trustworthiness across several disciplines of business studies, anthropology, psychology and sociology (Barbalet, 2017; Wuthisatian et al., 2017). Trustworthiness has been examined in studies that mirror perceptions of leader and employee behaviours in business organisations (Bradley et al., 2014), investment games (Cochard et al., 2004), information sharing and supply chains (Ozer et al., 2014), punishment and communication (Wuthisatian et al., 2017), monitoring and ethical behaviour (Danese and Mittone, 2017) and organisational culture (Bohnet and Croson, 2004). Despite the plethora of attention given to the trustworthiness concept, much is yet to be done to sufficiently explore how trustworthiness influences the impact of organisational culture dimensions on employee creativity. This is because of the advocated significance of the trustworthiness undergirding, and the probable positive impact it could have on employee creativity (Ogbeibu et al., 2017).
Prior research suggests that trustworthiness involves risky behaviours of organisational members and the perception that aids an employee’s judgment of another (Bohnet and Croson, 2004). Trustworthiness reflects a gambling of choices between the costs of plausible betrayal, a dire future uncertainty and a probable guess that anticipated objectives grounded on trustworthiness expectations would be met (Danese and Mittone, 2017; Ogbeibu et al., 2017). Bohnet and Croson (2004) highlighted that the values binding strong trustworthiness perceptions decrease in the wake of an increase in social distance. Hence, values relevant for bolstering creative ideas exchange may consequently deteriorate under a hierarchy organisational culture due to weak social ties binding organisational managers to their employees (Barbalet, 2017). Barbalet (2017) opine that trustworthiness is the efficacious bond that binds organisational members through expressed habituated behaviours and sincerity signals that commands role obligations and reciprocity. This view into what trustworthiness is reflects a bond of loyalty exemplified under the clan organisational culture dimension (Hoskins, 2014). Organisational members live as a family and are expected to commit fully to creativity initiatives as a medium of reciprocation for being identified as a family member (Zhao, 2015). Studies espouse that under such organisational culture dimension, communication and close supervision is usually effective due to dyadic relationships (Zhu and Diwan, 2016).
Similarly, Ozer et al. (2014) emphasise on the need for continuous development of effective relationships via values that foster repeated interactions among organisational members. This could create a room for increased familiarity needed to help organisational members measure their respective trustworthiness perceptions of each other (Tastan and Davoudi, 2015). Given a work environment where values shared reflect a high degree of employee autonomy, risks supportive climate and entrepreneurial habits, an in-depth understanding of an employee’s level of ability, integrity and benevolence regarding a defined task could aid managers demonstrate effective monitoring and control (Lempiala and Vanharanta, 2017; Liu et al., 2017). It could also help managers know what resources to deploy towards enhancing employee creativity. This strategy could be relevant in an adhocracy organisational culture dimension where employees are expected to thrive in creativity initiatives that could provoke relevant innovations (Lempiala and Vanharanta, 2017). Moreover, in order to further expound the underpinning of trustworthiness impact on employee creativity, there is a need for a deeper understanding of the relationship between organisational culture and employee creativity.
3. The relationship between organisational culture and employee creativity
Arguments surrounding the paradigms of organisational culture and employee creativity relationships suggest that the controversies are yet systematically unanswered. This is also in view that employees whose values are fully integrated into the organisational culture may often lean towards forming homogeneous philosophies and clusters. On this note, Hofstede (2015) asserts that the organisational culture addresses both shared and transferable practices and perceptions that could be relayed as values. Dollinger et al. (2007) argue that values of organisational culture refer to ideologies that underlie several norms and behaviours. Values in this context relate certain beliefs that could be perceived as assumptions over time and are consequently expressed in employee behaviours and attitudes (Schein, 2010). Martins and Terblanche (2003) further espouse that elements of routine philosophies, norms, behaviours or values all constitute parts of organisational culture.
Values which promote employee creativity may often manifest in clear interactive manners that could either engender or impede employee creativity. Employees that hold similar values to those of the organisational culture have a tendency to interrelate more efficiently towards initiatives related to creativity (Martins and Terblanche, 2003). Employee creativity is thus highly engendered in situations of a successful combination of employee values with that of organisational culture (Kyvik et al., 2012). Since values associated with creativity differ with respect to different employees, each employee may possess a different system of values as compared to their colleagues (Amabile and Pillemer, 2012; Campbell, 2004; Lipponen et al., 2008). It might, thus, be argued that creativity could be a function of integrated values which are held by creative employees. This may also be in the light of what has been desired or preferred. It, therefore, could be a facilitator of the ongoing divide evidenced in the relationship between organisational culture and employee creativity. The discourse of the possible nexus between organisational culture and employee creativity remains a controversial issue.
Studies suggest a negative relationship between organisational culture and employee creativity (Kaufman and Baer, 2004). Other studies advocate a significant relationship between organisational culture and employee creativity (Karamipour et al., 2015). In an empirical study of 175 respondents (managers and experts) of the Khuzestan Physical Education Organization, Mobarakeh (2011) reported that there is a significant relationship between organisational culture and employee creativity. Although the author noted that no significant relationship has been emphasised between organisational culture dimensions with employee creativity. Equally, Yazdi (2007) reported no significant relationship between dimensions of organisational culture and employee creativity. Hemmatinezhad et al. (2012) carried out an empirical study of 40 experts in education administrations, located in the provincial cities of Guilan, Iran. The authors also reported that there is no significant relationship between organisational culture and employee creativity.
Contrary to these results, Einsteine and Hwang (2007) postulated that a significant and positive relationship exists between the organisational culture dimensions and employee creativity. Ghahreman et al. (2006) espoused that organisational culture is also eligible for projecting creativity. Similarly, in an empirical study of 234 employees of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Amiri et al. (2014) convincingly reported that there is a significant and positive relationship between organisational culture and employee creativity. Likewise, a questionnaire survey of 128 lower and middle-level executives from several departments of six Indian organisations reflect that organisational cultures that are future-oriented and innovation centred have a positive effect on employee creativity (Gupta, 2011). Furthermore, a study of 355 employees of 12 companies involved in the metal industries in Kavek industrial city, Iran, indicates a significant effect of organisational culture on employee creativity (Karamipour et al., 2015). It is unequivocally clear that the conceptual underpinnings surrounding the organisational culture and employee creativity relationship are yet a growing paradox and are gravitating towards a cross-national issue. Dollinger et al. (2007) further argued that although studies may have addressed the relationship between organisational culture and employee creativity, it yet remains unclear, with respect to mixed results of experimental studies.
4. The missing link: a much-overlooked pathway
This present study thus highlights a multidimensional model that reflects the moderating impact of trustworthiness on the relationship between organisational culture and employee creativity. Although it may not be completely exhaustive, yet while anchored on trustworthiness, it has been designed to provoke a future theoretical undergirding that should aid to further guide organisational managers in engendering their employee creativity from an individual-level perspective. To develop the multidimensional model for this study, concepts from cognitive psychology and management have been borrowed and integrated. This study highlights the Cameron and Quinn’s (2006) Competing Values Framework (for assessing the organisational culture), the trustworthiness construct from Mayer et al. (1995) Integrative Model of Organisational Trust (for examining the trustworthiness effect). Additionally, Amabile (1997) componential theory of individual creativity is highlighted for examining the creative employee, towards the engendering of employee creativity.
Employee creativity has earlier been examined as a multidimensional construct that involves distinct measurement of its observed variables (Birdi et al., 2016). However, studies have also analysed the employee creativity concept as a unidimensional construct (Liu et al., 2016; Martins and Terblanche, 2003; Mehlika et al., 2014; Shalley et al., 2004). This may involve a subsequent scoring and further integration of all observed variables of creativity, to reflect a single variable known as employee creativity. Similarly, this could be a consequence of discrepancies in perceptions regarding the definitions, measurements and underpinnings surrounding the employee creativity phenomenon (Amabile and Pillemer, 2012; Kaufman and Baer, 2004; Kaufman and Beghetto, 2009; Kaufman, 2012; Merrotsy, 2013; Shalley et al., 2004). It may also be due to empirical variances and puzzling debates observed in the cognitive examination of the employee creativity undergirding (Kaufman and Beghetto, 2009; Merrotsy, 2013). However, with respect to the vexing debates surrounding the kinds and levels of creativity, and the rising confusion in its dimension within different creativity domains (Kaufman and Baer, 2004; Kaufman and Beghetto, 2009; Merrotsy, 2013) employee creativity in this study is thus addressed as a unidimensional construct. This is also with regards to the aims and scope of this study (Figure 1).
5. Where do we go from here?
Hofstede (2015) asserts that the organisational culture deals with transferable and shared perceptions, practices and values. These shared notions are expressed and perceived from the integration of organisational culture values and that of employees (Auernhammer and Hall, 2013). Kyvik et al. (2012) also support the necessity of shared values for the sustenance of employee creativity. Values in this context may be regarded as ideas, traits and objects which have a special implication on an employee level as well as organisational level (Anugamini and Rajib, 2016; Lotars and Barbars, 2010). Thus, values that are shared could relay diverse impacts between organisational members within each of the various organisational culture dimensions earlier identified in this present study. As highlighted by Cameron and Quinn (2011), the clan, adhocracy, market and hierarchy organisational culture dimensions reflect distinct impacts on employees. Employee creativity may, thus, be influenced differently based on the defined organisational culture dimension employed in an organisation. This is also inferred as a result of insights gotten from several case studies highlighted in the works of Byrge et al. (2014), and Savolainen and López-Fresno (2012) and others.
One of the case studies cast light into the business case of Tesco PLC (Byrge et al., 2014). Being a multinational grocery and general merchandise retailer, Tesco PLC operates an organisational culture that exemplifies core values of the clan organisational culture dimension. Tesco PLC drives its core purpose of “we make what matter better together” to reflect teamwork, integrity, benevolent leadership styles and ability to always do the right thing, and inspire employees in order to build more loyalty and trust (Haque, 2012). Values exhibited in Tesco PLC are constantly being updated to maintain congruence with growing market trends and this mirrors new requirements from employees. Tesco PLC, thus, believes that clan organisational culture values exhibited would help inspire employees to become more creative and be more willing to share creative ideas with their leaders (Byrge et al., 2014). Additionally, the accounts of Barton and Nuttall (2012) and Byrge et al. (2014) relate the case of the UK’s Royal Mail postal service company. The authors highlight that Moya Greene, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the UK’s Royal Mail postal service company in 2010, was able to effectively leverage core values of the clan organisational culture dimension to inspire creativity, and further save the Royal Mail Company from a rapid decline in revenue. By directly acting as a mentor, parent figure or coach to several hundreds of employees, the CEO was perceived as a trustworthy person that fostered effective communication between employees and herself. The CEO, thus, highlighted that employees “are the most powerful ambassadors for the brand, and they need to be given accurate information about what we’re doing” (Barton and Nuttall, 2012). The CEO exhibited concerns for the well-being of employees and their families by spending much time in the field developing rapport and driving the effective exchange of creative ideas (Barton and Nuttall, 2012; Byrge et al., 2014). This present study, therefore, argues that an adequate cultivation of the clan organisational culture dimension values could reflect positive consequences that may aid to engender employee creativity.
Equally, the case of Pixar Animation Studios (PAS) located in California, USA, deepens the insights into how the adhocracy organisational culture dimension could relate positive impact on employee creativity (Byrge et al., 2014). By leveraging values such as employee autonomy, risk-taking, innovativeness and encouragement of entrepreneurial behaviours among employees, one of the pioneers of PAS, Ed Catmull was able to consequently record outrageous success. Before PAS was bought by Disney in 2006 for $7.4bn, each of PAS’ 14 films were debuted at the top of the USA box-office charts (Byrge et al., 2014; Catmull, 2014). A hallmark of an adhocracy organisational culture is the freedom of organisational members to share creative ideas, constructive criticisms and opinions and these values were demonstrated within the PAS workforce (Byrge et al., 2014). According to Catmull (2014), the notion of executing innovative tasks at a 100 per cent accuracy rate and 0 per cent error produces less creativity in employees. This approach is actually detrimental to employee creativity (Parjanen, 2012). Thus, Catmull (2008) emphasised that PAS shared adhocracy organisational culture values that made them adhere to sets of principles for managing employee creativity and risk. Price (2014) further pointed out that PAS did not just achieve success in inspiring employees towards increased creativity, but operated an organisational culture that did not only support risk-taking but had the capability to demonstrate resilience and absorptive capacity even when innovative initiatives failed (Byrge et al., 2014). This study, thus, posits that adhocracy organisational culture could have a positive impact on employee creativity.
Values endemic within the market and hierarchy organisational cultures could also be deduced from the Hewlett–Packard (HP) Corporation’s case, known as the rise and fall of the HP Way (Dong, 2002; Taylor, 2011). The HP Way had since its inception being a beacon of light for the multinational corporation until its abrupt end in the year 1999 (Dong, 2002). The HP Way mirrored a system of team efforts, trust and integrity, and related values that encouraged leader–member exchange of creative ideas (Dong, 2002; Stachowicz-Stanusch and Slaska, 2009). Taylor (2011) and Dong (2002) noted that by regularly roaming the workforce, spending time at several HP sites discussing with employees, and grasping how employees felt about their jobs, HP founding fathers (Hewlett and Packard) left a legacy that inspired a supportive organisational culture. Hence, HP managers were expected to develop a strong rapport with their employees to encourage the effective exchange of creative ideas and to maintain employee autonomy regarding accomplishments of agreed goals on tasks (Hassan, 2016). Dong (2002) argued that this strategy fostered entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking among employees. Taylor (2011) further advocated that the high-tech giant, HP, had tremendous growth success by demonstrating a strong focus on employee welfare and development.
Nevertheless, in 1999, the HP Corporation hired a new CEO (Carly Fiorina – former sales executive), whose arrival is argued to have completely obliterated the values exemplified by the HP Way (Dong, 2002). The CEO invoked new practices that ultimately focused on profitability and increase of market shares. This shift in focus tends to have overlooked the significance of employees as a company’s prime asset (Agnieszka and Dariusz, 2016; Taylor, 2011). New values instituted by the new CEO reflected core values that typified those of the market and hierarchical organisational cultures, and this cost HP Corporation a huge decline in revenue (Dong, 2002; Stachowicz-Stanusch and Slaska, 2009). The new values led to massive and constant employee layoffs, a demotivated workforce, loss of trust and a decline in employee perceptions of their leaders’ trustworthiness (Dong, 2002; Taylor, 2011). Dong (2002) and Taylor (2011), therefore, emphasised that the HP Way became altered in the intense battle for market leadership and excessively stringent control of employees. The CEO also valued profits more than employees and cultivated a culture of fear. The CEO led employees by inspiring fear as a motivational tool rather than encouraging benevolence which has been a core of the values HP employees had always been used to (Dong, 2002; Stachowicz-Stanusch and Slaska, 2009). Studies (Amiri et al., 2014; Byrge et al., 2014) opine that by exhibiting values of a hierarchical organisational culture, managers often succeed in instituting a new philosophy that may relate utter disregard for contributions of creative ideas by employees. Consequently, with dire emphasis on profitability, market leadership pursuit, and a demonstration of hierarchy organisational culture values, not only was the HP Way that had previously driven success impaired, the HP corporation also fell behind in revenue growth (Dong, 2002; Hassan, 2016; Taylor, 2011). Consequently, this study theorises that both market and hierarchy organisational cultures could have negative impacts on employee creativity.
Anticipated output regarding creativity initiatives may be contingent upon the prevailing impact of the relationship between respective organisational culture dimensions and employee creativity. Based on the features of the clan and adhocracy organisational culture dimensions, one may deduce a high potential for increased creativity and innovativeness. Although with a focus on operational efficiencies, legalities and bureaucracies, rather than task autonomy, the market, and hierarchy organisational culture dimensions may, thus, reflect a negative impact on employee creativity. With respect to the vexing debates on the phenomenon of organisational culture and its impact on employee creativity (Einsteine and Hwang, 2007; Goncalo and Staw, 2006; Martins and Terblanche, 2003; Mobarakeh, 2011; Pandey and Sharma, 2009), the following propositions are, therefore, accentuated:
The clan organisational culture dimension has a positive impact on employee creativity. With a homogeneity of shared values as observed in a family, creative ideas shared tend to be more welcomed in the face of increased openness related to emotions, intuitions, experiences and memories.
Adhocracy organisational culture dimension has a positive impact on employee creativity, as having similar shared values (tailored towards cutting-edge innovations and entrepreneurship) drives the rationale for the improvement of employee creativity.
Market organisational culture dimension has a negative impact on employee creativity. This is with regards that this dimension’s inclination and prime focus on competitiveness and productiveness constrain an employee’s autonomy to push creativity beyond basic task routines and targets, towards the path of a cutting-edge novelty.
Hierarchy organisational culture dimension has a negative impact on employee creativity. Under this dimension’s very structured, formalized and pre-determined work procedures, employee creativity would encounter grave impediments due to very strict organisational rules and rigid controls.
As highlighted in real-world case studies documented by Savolainen and López-Fresno (2012), trustworthy behaviours of organisational members could aid to drive initiatives relevant for engendering employee creativity. Savolainen and López-Fresno (2012) explored trustworthy leader behaviours in service and manufacturing companies in Spain and Finland. The study presented a case of a company identified in this study as company A. Trustworthiness values exemplified in company A is tailored towards improving upon customer service principles, sustainability, respect for organisational members, innovation and continuous improvement of employees. A major strength of company A is maintaining a focus on initiatives encompassing effective communication, training, and participation. Consequently, this strategy has led to increased integration and motivation of employees to become more aligned with company A’s objectives and mission. This strategy has also helped company A to increase their annual savings. Although company A’s leadership style is authoritative, demanding and seemingly related to that of a hierarchy organisational culture, managers strive to ensure work practices are built upon a “management by walking around scheme”, integrity, and high ability to demonstrate empathy. The habit of listening, and encouraging communication and feedback channels are often epitomised by managers. Therefore, this has further fostered transparency, co-creation and co-operation among organisational members; and studies (Byrge et al., 2014; Carlos and Maria, 2014) advocate that such values mirror positive impact on employee creativity. Nevertheless, it is important to note that even though trustworthiness dimensions are demonstrated effectively, the anticipated consequence on employee creativity may vary given the diversity of values encompassing each organisational culture dimension. Therefore, organisations ought not to overlook the probable implication(s) each trustworthiness dimension could reflect on employee creativity.
The moderating effect of ability
As a major dimension within the trustworthiness construct, ability is relevant for promoting effective interpersonal trust relationship. Exhibiting a high degree of ability towards creativity initiatives is vital for engendering employee creativity (Barend and Victor, 2015; Afsar, 2016). For an employee to be engaged in employee creativity initiatives, the manager might have a need to examine the employee’s ability to commit towards employee creativity initiatives effectively and efficiently. Thus, commitment towards engendering employee creativity may be contingent on an organisational member’s ability to exhibit a high degree of expertise, creativity skills and task motivation (Anugamini and Rajib, 2016; Liu et al., 2016). However, the extent to which organisational members are able to fully employ their ability towards successfully engendering employee creativity could also be dependent on a supportive organisational culture. Gupta (2011) argues convincingly that the organisational culture enforces a high degree of influence on the processes and outcomes of employee creativity. There is, thus, a need for managers to take into further consideration, the effect of ability on the impact of organisational culture on employee creativity. Consequently, a proposition is further emphasised:
The extent to which employees are able to fully employ their ability towards engendering creativity is also dependent on a supportive organisational culture. That is, employee creativity would be engendered if organisational cultures are tailored towards improving the ability of employees.
The moderating effect of benevolence
Benevolence in this study relays the degree to which organisational members are believed to want to exhibit care and goodness towards each other. This is apparently exclusive of an egocentric profit motive (Colquitt and Rodell, 2011). Signs of benevolence may be easily observed in the highlighted values of managers towards employees. This may appear as expressions of an acceptable degree of a manager’s goodwill and care for an employee and vice versa. Thus, engendering a platform that further encourages the integration of values and further exchange of creative ideas within the organisation (Kyvik et al., 2012). Employee’s strong perceptions of a supportive organisational culture that commits towards engendering employee creativity is likely to be welcomed as a sign of manager’s care about employee’s interests (Amiri et al., 2014). Consequently, a manager’s actions that are tailored towards engendering employee creativity could be subsequently perceived by employees as a demonstration of benevolence (Agnieszka and Dariusz, 2016). Therefore, this study postulates that in order to engender employee creativity that is built upon a supportive organisational culture, an acceptable degree of benevolence ought to be expressed between members of the organisation:
When a manager’s expressed benevolence becomes higher, the trustworthiness perceptions of employees which reflect that a manager cares about their interests will become higher as well. Therefore, the engendering of employee creativity is contingent on an acceptable degree of benevolence expressed between managers and their respective employees.
The moderating effect of integrity
Integrity relates the perception that managers ought to adhere strictly to certain laid down principles and policies which employees find acceptable. This also entails the belief that standards of values that are embedded within the organisational culture and are relevant for engendering employee creativity remain unaffected (Kpakol et al., 2016). Employing unacceptable sets of values within the organisational workforce may give cause for employees to question the integrity of managers over creativity initiatives (Meyer, 2014). Conversely, for an employee to become tasked with the responsibility to exhibit required expertise, creativity skills and even motivation, the same employee may have already displayed a track record of an acceptable degree of integrity that is congruent with the set values of the supportive organisational culture dimension. This study thus highlights the following propositions:
When expressed integrity of organisational members become higher, the trustworthiness perceptions of them which relate that they have strong integrity becomes higher as well. The engendering of employee creativity is, thus, contingent on an acceptable degree of integrity expressed between managers and their respective employees.
Trustworthiness plays a major role in influencing the degree at which managers engender employee creativity. The impacts of organisational culture on employee creativity highlight the need for managers to consistently re-evaluate their processes of managing the creativity of their employees. This is important to ensure short- and long-term organisational survival (Birdi et al., 2016). Due to the complexity of values shared in diverse organisational cultures, the art of engendering employee creativity could, thus, present varying consequences that may appear quite challenging for managers (Chang and Nadine, 2014). Therefore, this study has attempted to develop a multidimensional model as a resource which if meticulously employed could help managers engender their employee creativity. Organisations seeking to engender employee creativity in order to boost their competitive edge and combat growing changes may want to consider the case of Tesco PLC (Byrge et al., 2014). By demonstrating a strong benevolent leadership style under the clan organisational culture, managers could help to further bolster employee creativity. This is because typical shared values of the clan organisational culture reflect the creation of dyadic bonds and relationships. The flow of exchange of creative ideas is likely to be met with little or no resistance due to strong perceptions an employee may have that his or her manager is trustworthy. Although it is important to note that the chances of betrayal and deceit may very likely be high under such situations (Ogbeibu et al., 2017), managers may want to consider setting standard operating ethics prior to engaging in the exchange of values under the clan organisational culture. This could help curb the plausible negative consequences of being too benevolent.
Likewise, exhibiting trustworthy behaviours under an adhocracy organisational culture dimension could also help to further engender employee creativity. Considering the case of PAS (Byrge et al., 2014), it is important for managers to not overlook the possibility that exerting trustworthy behaviours may help inspire transparency and openness within the workforce. Thus, an employee’s perceptions of a manager may be positively influenced to develop stronger nexus with the same manager and, in turn, help the employee feel free to express creative behaviours without fear of punishment or criticisms. This strategy may not only inspire a conducive working environment that is similar to the case of the HP Way, but it could further help employees exploit their innate capabilities and significantly contribute towards creativity initiatives. The feeling of being independent to execute risky propositions within defined creative tasks relates a sense of less hierarchical control of employees, and this stands in dissonance to values shared in the hierarchy organisational culture dimension. Studies (Hoskins, 2014; Lempiala and Vanharanta, 2017; Liu et al., 2017) debate that stringent controls inhibit employee creativity and this is of similar consequence to the case of the rise and fall of the HP Way. Therefore, managers may want to consider exerting flexible control that helps realign and ensure creative ideas generated are constantly congruent to overall organisational aims and objectives. Managers could also control for stability of an employee’s cognitive ideas stimulation processes in order to mitigate the chances of an employee becoming too fixated on diverse creative ideas. This may otherwise, likely cost the organisation grave misuse of resources, time and energy (Howard et al., 2013; Storm and Angello, 2010).
This study draws further inference from the case of the rise and fall of the HP Way to support that managers may want to find a balance between the pursuit of profitability, market leadership and maintaining a motivated workforce that is inspired to engage in creativity initiatives. A prospective measure, in this case, could involve a manager’s demonstration of strong concerns for the well-being of employees and making of further inquiries to comprehend how employees really feel about their set tasks. Managers could, thus, generate invaluable insights that could help them lead and manage their employees more effectively and efficiently. This strategy could subsequently provoke group coherence and collective commitment towards initiatives that may engender employee creativity.
Although this study relates a significant theoretical contribution to the organisational culture, creativity and trustworthiness conceptual underpinning, it is not however without limitations. The multidimensional model for engendering employee creativity is yet to be applied in a varied cultural and practical context, hence shows its originality. Future studies may consider engendering its application by empirically testing the multidimensional model in diverse cultural contexts. Future research may even be initiated across national perspectives to engender a comparative analysis and results. This would aid to further improve the adaptability and practical implications of this study’s theoretical undergirding.
Given that employee creativity was highlighted as a unidimensional construct, the multidimensional model related in this study did not thoroughly highlight on the relationship between the several organisational culture dimensions and their impacts on expertise, creativity skills and task motivation. Therefore, future studies may, thus, empirically examine the dimensions of employee creativity as a multidimensional construct to further reflect new findings that could increase the undergirding of the employee creativity concept. Despite a critical analysis of the organisational culture and employee creativity relationship, future studies may also try to further examine the role of creative ideas as a probable nexus between organisational culture and employee creativity with a view of further improving organisational creativity. Also, invaluable findings may be reached regarding this study’s multidimensional model, through diverse empirical and statistical evaluation techniques. This is to further test the reliability, validity and generalisability of the multidimensional model for engendering employee creativity.
This study is vital for facilitating the diffusion of employee creative ideas within an organisational workforce. It would assist in bringing about the improvement of employee creative skills and innovative capabilities. It would also facilitate critical analyses of how trustworthiness affects the organisational culture towards the engendering of employee creativity. This study would also be significant to academicians for the purpose of further identifying and managing organisational culture dimensions which tend to inhibit or facilitate employee creativity within the workforce. Similarly, it would aid in creating a platform for further conceptual research development towards increased organisational creativity. This is in view that this study is based on an employee creativity level. This study would also be vital for policymakers, management consultants and human resource professionals to further investigate possible organisational culture impacts on the development, exploitation and implementation of employee creativity initiatives.
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About the authors
Samuel Ogbeibu holds a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Degree from the Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), Malaysia, and a Master of Business Administration Degree from the University of Wales (Prifsygol Cymru), Cardiff, UK. His research interests include creativity, innovation, human resource management, organisational behaviour, change & project management, leadership, trust and trustworthiness, quantitative and qualitative research methods, and career development. He is an international advisory and review board Member for the Market Forces Journal. A reviewer panel Member for the Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning Journal and Associate Member of the Institute of Strategic Management, Nigeria.
Dr Abdelhak Senadjki is Assistant Professor of Economics at the Faculty of Business and Finance, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), Malaysia. He obtained PhD and Masters of Economic Management Degrees from the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and the Bachelor Degree in Economics from the University of Algiers. His research interests include energy economics, economic development, organizational culture and creativity and Islamic studies. He has published widely in various local and international refereed journals. He is a member of the Advisory Board for the Market Forces Journal and reviewer for a number of refereed journals.
Tan Luen Peng (PhD UPM, Malaysia) is Assistant Professor of Faculty of Business and Finance at the University Tunku Abdul Rahman. His research interests include interpersonal trust, perceived organizational support, psychological empowerment.