Affect and creativity in work teams

March Leung To, Neal M. Ashkanasy, Cynthia D Fisher

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review


Introduction: Work-related creativity in the context of teamwork refers to the processes by which employees generate novel and useful ideas to solve problems related to team productivity and effectiveness (George, 2007; Hennessey & Amabile, 2010; Zhou & Roever, 2014).Engagement in creative processes within this situation concomitantly involves cognitive activities such as reframing the problem, searching for and encoding information, generating and modifying alternatives, and extending initial ideas (e.g., Drazin, Glynn, & Kazanjian, 1999; To, Fisher, & Ashkanasy, 2015; To, Fisher, Ashkanasy, & Rowe, 2012; Zhang & Bartol, 2010). While these cognitive activities can be conducted by individuals working alone, researchers such as Hargadon and Bechky (2006) and To, Tse, and Ashkanasy (2015) stress that creative synergy is best achieved through team members working together to share their knowledge with the intention to build innovative solutions to work-related problems (see also Shin & Zhou, 2007; Zhang & Bartol, 2010). Achieving success through creative synergy is not automatic, however; it requires meaningful task and interpersonal interactions among team members. Further, team creative efforts may be full of ups and downs (Amabile, Barsade, Mueller, & St:aw, 2005; Tsai,Chi, Grantley, & Fung, 2012). While team members working together can sometimes feel inspired and experience new and useful insights, they may just as often feel they are stuck; they then are likely to feel frustration and maybe even express hostility towards other team members (Barsade & Knight, 2015; George, 2007). Indeed, such problems with managing emotions in teams may explain why so many teams fail to realize their potential. It appears that knowing how to increase and sustain creativity is an important challenge for project leaders and supervisors. The need to understand how and when collective emotional states experienced at the group level may impact critical team functions such as creativity is especially imperative given the rise of team-based structures in organizations (Mathieu, Maynard, Rapp, & Gilson, 2008). Further, there is evidence that affect can play a major role in team functioning (see Collins,Lawrence, Troth, & Jordan, 2013 fur a review). In this regard, most research on creativity in teams borrows from the much larger literature on mood and individual creativity (see, e.g.,Anderson, Potocnik, & Zhou 2014) to inform work on group affect and creativity. In this chapter, we seek to make a key conceptual extension from individual to group creativity, noting that this entails an extra degree of complexity. We begin with a review of research findings on affect and its effects at the level of individual creativity, and followup by describing the research that has extended individual phenomena to the group level,including discussion of the dynamic nature of creativity in groups. Finally, we identify the inadequacies of the conceptual extension in current group research and offer recommendations for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Wiley Blackwell handbook of the psychology of team working and collaborative processes
EditorsE Salas, R Rico, J Passmore
Place of PublicationHoboken
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781118909997
ISBN (Print)9781118903261, 9781118909973
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017

Publication series

NameOrganizational Psychology
PublisherWiley Blackwell


Dive into the research topics of 'Affect and creativity in work teams'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this