Multi-Level Issues in Creativity and Innovation: Volume 7


Table of contents

(24 chapters)

Francis J. Yammarino is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Management and director and fellow of the Center for Leadership Studies at the State University of New York at Binghamton. He received his Ph.D. in organizational behavior (management) from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Dr. Yammarino has extensive research experience in the areas of superior–subordinate relationships, leadership, self–other agreement processes, and multiple levels of analysis issues. He has served on the editorial review boards of seven scholarly journals, including the Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Applied Psychology, and the Leadership Quarterly. Dr. Yammarino is a fellow of the American Psychological Society and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. He is the author of 12 books and has published over 100 articles. Dr. Yammarino has served as a consultant to numerous organizations, including IBM, Textron, TRW, Lockheed Martin, Medtronic, United Way, Skills Net, and the US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Department of Education.

“Multi-Level Issues in Creativity and Innovation” is Volume 7 of Research in Multi-Level Issues, an annual series that provides an outlet for the discussion of multi-level problems and solutions across a variety of fields of study. Using a scientific debate format of a key scholarly essay followed by two commentaries and a rebuttal, we present, in this series, theoretical work, significant empirical studies, methodological developments, analytical techniques, and philosophical treatments to advance the field of multi-level studies, regardless of disciplinary perspective.

Organizational creativity and innovation are inherently complex phenomena, and subject to a myriad of broad contextual and social influences. As the evidence grows for the link between innovation and organizational effectiveness and, ultimately, organizational survival, there is no doubting the need for theoretical and practical advances in our understanding. The complex nature of these constructs, however, requires that such efforts utilize a multi-level lens. This chapter discusses key aspects of creativity and innovation in organizations, including fundamental construct definition issues, which underscore the need for a multi-level perspective. It also reviews extant theoretical perspectives for their contributions to a multi-level understanding, and the research in two key areas of social influence – group factors and leadership – that have received substantial attention in the organizational literature. The review and discussion of these areas reveal not only numerous advances, but also substantial limitations that must be resolved through more complex and comprehensive (i.e., multi-level) approaches. The chapter concludes with several recommendations intended to guide and inform future work in the organizational creativity and innovation field.

Agars, Kaufman, and Locke's (this volume) review of social influence within the creativity and innovation literature provides an introduction to multi-level issues within creativity research. Their chapter reveals that relevant social influences may differ by level, relevant domain characteristics may not hold across other domains, and creativity may be influenced differently than innovation. Building on Agars et al.'s work, this commentary offers several suggestions pertaining to multi-level research as a means of advancing creativity research, specifically as it relates to social influence. Suggestions for future research include consideration of levels-based boundaries within theoretical construct development, employment of a bracketing technique to review construct implications at levels above and below the construct of interest, and improvement in multi-level modeling of particular social influence and/or creative processes that are non-linear in nature.

This commentary is intended to complement the chapter written by Agars, Kaufman, and Locke (this volume). Agars et al. (this volume) are correct in stating that innovation is a vital part of business and that much can be learned about innovation from studies of creativity. This commentary underscores several of the more important points made by Agars et al., questions others, and fills in several gaps found in their chapter. Perhaps most important are the qualifications offered in the present commentary, which are intended to constrain some of the claims made in Agars et al.'s chapter. Related to this is the need to consider the larger picture of scholarship dealing with innovation and creativity. For example, there may be an originality bias among creativity researchers and an unfortunate tendency to ignore relevant but older research. This commentary does have a critical tone, but only because many of Agars et al.'s arguments are entirely tenable and need not be repeated. The gaps, however, should be filled, and some of the claims qualified. Nevertheless, some ambiguity is useful with a complex topic, such as creativity, and it is important to recognize that creativity is not entirely a social process.

As the preceding chapter and commentaries reveal, the field of organizational creativity and innovation is both complex and multifaceted. Many core constructs are ambiguously defined, and levels issues are often confounded within constructs and among proposed relationships. When attempting to advance the understanding of social influence factors and organizational creativity and innovation, multi-level perspectives are particularly well suited to address these complexities. The commentaries of Dionne and Runco represent alternative approaches to facing these challenges. This response to their commentaries discusses our perspective on their recommendations and presents some final thoughts on how multi-level approaches should form the basis for moving the field forward.

Scholars continue to debate whether planning, in fact, contributes to creativity and innovation. In this chapter, we argue that planning is critical to innovation and will contribute to the generation of viable new ideas. Effective planning, however, must be based on an incremental approach involving a viable portfolio of projects. The implications of this model for the management of innovation at the organizational, group, and individual levels are discussed. Potential new directions for research are considered, along with the model's implications for the management of creative ventures.

In their chapter, Mumford, Bedell-Avers, and Hunter (this volume) confront the nontrivial issue of whether creativity and innovation can be planned, and proceed to support an affirmative answer with a well-organized treatment of the applied research literature relevant to this topic. They outline and reference an incremental approach to this planning process at multiple levels of analysis (organization, group, and individual), and present both a state-of-the-art review and a general, normative approach to this daunting challenge. In reviewing this chapter, this commentary addresses what is worthwhile and important in their presentation that students of this field should find noteworthy. Next, it takes up the issue of what is underdeveloped or missing that would fit nicely into Mumford et al.'s framework, or might provide food for thought to those wanting to go forward with research on the topic of planning for innovation. Finally, it presents conclusions about this topic and the field in general that were stimulated by Mumford et al.'s chapter, including the role of information technology and knowledge management for innovation planning.

This commentary challenges researchers to include grounded social processes generated by individual action and interaction as they study managerial efforts in an attempt to impose prescriptive innovation models on them. Specifically, innovation planning for the middle of the organization and the middle stages of the innovation process should consider a variety of social processes that emerge from the interaction of individuals in their grounded setting. Researchers in this area should place much more emphasis on interpretation and further explore how leaders might facilitate interaction to increase the changes of dynamic adaptive emergence. We also suggest a consideration of managerial mindsets to determine how executives attempt to influence those in the middle, and we call on researchers to explicitly recognize differences in types of innovations and technological discontinuities.

Plans and planning have a long and checkered history. In their commentaries, Ettlie (this volume) and Miller and Osborn (this volume) take rather different views on the need for planning in innovative projects. In this commentary, we take the position that innovation requires constraints. These constraints induce certain risk factors that warrant attention, such as oversystemization. By the same token, they produce conditions, including social conditions that make sustained innovation possible. Based on these observations, some potential directions for future research are discussed.

This chapter provides an in-depth understanding of the cognitive processes that facilitate creativity from a multi-level perspective. Because cognitive processes are viewed as residing within the individual and as an individual-level phenomenon, it is not surprising that a plethora of research has focused on various cognitive processes involved in creative production at the individual level and the factors that may facilitate or hinder the successful application of these processes. Of course, individuals do not exist in a vacuum, and many organizations are utilizing teams and groups to facilitate creative problem solving. We therefore extend our knowledge from the individual to the team level and group level, providing more than 50 propositions for testing and discussing their implications for future research.

Reiter-Palmon, Herman, and Yammarino (this volume) put forward a series of useful propositions about the nature of team creativity, its connection with individual creativity and cognitive processes, and its antecedents. This commentary highlights some issues raised by these propositions, and explores the emergence of team creativity in greater depth. In particular, it discusses existing principles of multi-level theory and measurement, and considers how they might be applied to team creativity. We conclude that there is no single unified way to treat the concept of team creativity, but just as the antecedents of creativity may change in different situations, so may the way in which the construct is defined.

This commentary suggests areas that could be further developed in Reiter-Palmon, Herman, and Yammarino's call for a multi-level analysis of the underlying cognitive structures of both teams and individuals. The chapter by Reiter-Palmon, Herman, and Yammarino effectively demonstrates the importance of cognition in the understanding of individual and team creativity. However, the importance of other issues – in particular, team process and composition – also needs to be more fully considered when moving from the individual level to the team level. This commentary addresses the conceptual challenge of attempting to take a purely cognitive approach for teams, and presents some further arguments for considering how team process and composition influence team cognition and ultimately team creative problem solving. It also discusses the value of using some type of team intervention to enhance team creative problem-solving processes. Finally, it argues for the importance of considering the dynamic nature of some teams and examining how changes in team membership can affect team cognition.

In this reply, we offer responses to two commentaries on our work on individual and team cognition and team creative problem-solving processes. We first acknowledge the contributions and depth of expansions to our work by Sacramento, Dawson, and West and by Shalley. We next clarify our views on some issues they raise. Finally, we offer additional multi-level extensions on these processes by incorporating ideas on leadership and organizational context.

This chapter presents a contextual model of human resources management (HRM). The hallmarks of this model are that (1) the most advantageous HRM practices vary conditionally upon strategic considerations; (2) each organization has multiple substrategies within it, and each substrategy is aligned with a unique bundle of HRM practices; (3) within each organization, three substrategies are associated with three subsystems; and (4) in terms of contributing to sustainable competitive advantage, the innovation subsystem is the most valuable regardless of the organization in question.

Innovation is an important component of the overall strategy for contemporary organizations. In parallel, strategic human resources management scholars have argued that human resources management practices should help to motivate behaviors and attitudes among organizational employees that will contribute to the successful implementation of the overall strategy. Taggar, Sulsky, and MacDonald suggest that the employee sector they label as the inner core is most critical to the attainment of an innovative substrategy goal, and specific human resources bundles should be designed to encourage creative and innovative behaviors among inner core employees. This commentary argues that innovation, as an inherent part of the overall strategy, should be an important goal for all employee sectors, although the nature of their needed innovative behavior may differ. Thus, the Taggar et al. model should be integrated with the multi-level model of organizational innovation and creativity developed by Bains and Tran (2006) to account better for the requirements of innovation in complex organizations.

Taggar, Sulsky, and MacDonald have presented an integrated model that links organizational strategy, the environment, and human resources management. This commentary analyzes their model, identifying a number of missed opportunities that are not adequately integrated into the model. Moreover, we propose two directions for expanding their model, including a consideration of social network theory and the global supply chain. By expanding Taggar et al.'s model to consider social networks and the supply chain, we believe that it will better capture the complexity of contemporary organizations while supporting the fecund ideas that Taggar et al. have proposed.

This response addresses the central issues raised by the commentaries on our earlier chapter. The intent here is to clarify issues that may have been insufficiently explicated in our original treaties. These include the distinction between core and other employee groups, the importance of horizontal fit among the human resources management (HRM) practices, and the importance of job analysis principles when considering innovative activities throughout firms.

Entrepreneurship research has grown in both quality and quantity over the past decade, as many theoretical innovations and important empirical research findings have been introduced to the field. However, theoretical approaches to understanding entrepreneurship remain fragmented, and empirical findings are unstable across different contexts. This chapter describes features of a multi-level process view of new venture emergence that adds coherence to the entrepreneurship theory jungle and brings order to idiosyncratic empirical results, by explaining how ideas become organized into new ventures. The centerpiece of this effort is enactment theory, a general process approach specifically developed to explain organizing processes. Enactment theory – and Campbellian evolutionary theorizing more generally – has a long history of use within and across multiple levels of analysis. Consequently, the description here illustrates how organizing unfolds across multiple levels of analysis and multiple phases of development. After describing the theorizing assumptions and multi-level process view of new venture organizing, the chapter explores implications of applying this perspective by suggesting new research directions and interpretations of prior work. The aim is to advocate process theorizing as a more productive approach to understanding new venture emergence.

Ford and Sullivan's piece makes a unique contribution to entrepreneurship studies, with the greatest being their multi-level, “bottom-up” theorizing about the process. These authors’ focus is limited to one level during each temporal phase. To be consistent with enactment theory, this process should address the recursive nature between the micro (individual) and macro (team and venture) levels throughout the entrepreneurship process. Specifically, the individual level is relevant throughout the process. This commentary offers three mechanisms to link the micro and macro levels: situational, action formation, and transformation. The current work is not intended to diminish Ford and Sullivan's work; indeed, multi-level theorizing is messy and theirs is an ambitious first step.

In response to Ford and Sullivan's chapter, this commentary poses a number of questions intended to help future research efforts ascertain whether levels of analysis and phases of new-venture emergence happen concurrently. Strongly in agreement with Ford and Sullivan's call for a process approach toward the study of entrepreneurial ventures, the commentary focuses on the potential processes associated with different levels of analysis that might possibly underlie the enactment and effectuation processes depicted in their model. Through the examination of these underlying processes, questions for future research are raised to help address the question, “Do levels and phases of new-venture emergence always happen together?”

Cogliser and Stambaugh (this volume) and Jaussi (this volume) provided valuable thoughts regarding the multi-level process view of new-venture emergence that we developed elsewhere in this volume. The current response to their suggestions focuses on two underlying themes that emerged from their commentaries. The first theme explores the existence of recursive links between the micro and macro levels of analysis during the new-venture emergence process. The second theme highlights the importance of understanding the underlying processes that may recursively affect venture organization at each level of analysis. Finally, this response reiterates our belief in the fruitful pursuit of studying new-venture emergence as an evolutionary process involving multiple levels of analysis.

Mark D. Agars is an associate professor of psychology at California State University, San Bernardino. He received his Ph.D. from the Pennsylvania State University in industrial and organizational psychology, where he worked with James L. Farr.

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Research in Multi-Level Issues
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