Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Individual Creativity and Work Pressure

Often we feel that the kind work pressure we have to cope up with is really killing our individual creativity. Sometimes we look back at our past and recall the good old days when we could actually do something really exciting and creative. Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile is trying to understand this situation in her research findings on Time Pressure and creativity.

She is in midst of a ten-year study looking at, among other things, how time pressure in corporate setting affects employee creativity. She recently presented early findings and an updated working paper to colleagues at the HBS Research Symposium, and will publish an overview of the work in the August issue of Harvard Business Review.

Here's a snapshot of her findings;

The results suggest that, overall, very high levels of time pressure should be avoided if you want to foster creativity on a consistent basis.


  • However, if a time crunch is absolutely unavoidable, managers can try to preserve creativity by protecting people from fragmentation of their work and distractions;

  • They should also give people a sense of being "on a mission," doing something difficult but important. I don't think, though, that most people can function effectively in that mode for long periods of time without getting burned out.

  • At the other end of the spectrum, very low time pressure might lull people into inaction; under those conditions, top-management encouragement to be creative—to do something radically new—might stimulate creativity.

  • The most surprising finding from the time pressure study is that time pressure really does seem to have an important impact on creativity, even though our intuitions are contradictory and previous research is inconclusive.

  • To read the complete interview click here.

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