How to Leverage the Creativity of Your Employees?

Miha Skerlavaj, Anders Dysvik

Creative thinking is necessary to meet business challenges, but ideas have no value unless they’re implemented.

What is the work climate in your organization like? Do employees push above and beyond to compete with each other? Do you readily recognize and reward efforts and ideas? If you answer yes to both questions, your organization is well set up to carry creative ideas to fulfillment.

In a performance work environment, the focus is on competition. Employees typically have a desire to demonstrate individual abilities and frequently compare personal achievements to colleagues. This is related to higher employee turnover, burnout and effort withdrawal.

A mastery work climate, on the other hand, rewards effort, self-improvement, skill development and cooperation. This is related to greater well-being and higher work performance, but may be difficult to achieve in a competitive business context focused on results.

Our research shows that if you want to maximize idea generation and idea implementation, you should combine both climates.

Balanced ambidexterity

If you manage to combine a performance climate with a strong mastery climate, it allows your employees to work towards implementing ideas and delivering results while at the same time appreciating personal growth and learning from each other. It also reduces negative outcomes such as high turnover and burnout.

A one-sided focus on performance risks skewing efforts towards short-term thinking, instant results and too little room for collaboration and creativity. Competitive organizations can enable a mastery climate through providing work autonomy, enabling task variation and rotation, supportive supervision and open recognition of creative ideas and employee or team efforts.

A systematic approach to idea implementation

When managers set aside resources for idea generation, they also need to invest in the implementation of those ideas. Combining mastery and performance climates sets the right conditions for creative thinking and implementation of ideas.

To track the process, companies should set up platforms that follow ideas from promotion through selection to implementation. Specific people should be charged with following up ideas across departments and making sure the necessary resources are allocated. The process should be transparent so that employees are able to follow their proposed ideas and involve themselves in the process for implementation.


Read more: Škerlavaj, M., Černe, M., Dysvik, A., Nerstad, C. G., & Su, C. (2019). Riding two horses at once: The combined roles of mastery and performance climates in implementing creative ideas. European Management Review, 16(2), 285-302.

Published 20. February 2020

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