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Perceiving creativity (Bramvan der Lecq)

Master Thesis for the study Culture, Organization and Management at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
A research towards creativity and its relationship with emotions and how this is perceived by employees. Researched organizations; Buurtzorg, Handelsbanken and Decathlon

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Perceiving creativity (Bramvan der Lecq)

  1. 1. Perceiving creativity Howtheemployeesofthreeself-managingorganizationsperceivethe directand indirectrelationshipbetweencreativityandemotions A thesis by Bram van der Lecq (2599216) For the master Culture, Organization & Management (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam) Supervised by Carel Roessingh
  2. 2. 2 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity ABSTRACT This qualitative research focuses creativity in organizations and on how employees perceive a relationship between creativity and emotions and organizations at three different self-managing organizations. All interviewees perceived a relationship between creativity and emotions, as was suggested by literature. This research shows that creativity and emotions in organizations have a direct and an indirect relationship. Freedom and stress are perceived to have the most influence on creativity. During this research I also found a discrepancy between how employees perceive creativity. They felt as if creativity was influenced mostly by character instead of external influences. When analyzing the gathered data I found that most factors that were mentioned by the interviewees to influence their creativity, were external influences, or could be influenced by external influences. This shows how much creativity is influenced by the social context, and suggests that employees are not aware of this.
  3. 3. 3 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Before I hope to intrigue you with my research, I’d first like to thank the Corporate Rebels team to give me the opportunity to work and learn with them. My collaboration with Catelijne Bexkens , Freek Ronner , Joost Minnaar and Pim de Morree helped me turn this research into an experience that was informative, eye-opening and most of all fun! I’d also like to thank the Corporate Rebels community who were very welcoming and interested, they gave me the feeling that I wasn’t just writing my thesis to finish my Master degree, but added towards their community. Furthermore I’d like to thank Carel Roessingh for his supervision over the last few months. Thanks for all the trust and allowing me to find my own way, while doing this research. Then last but definitely not least, I’d like to thank the most important persons of this research; the interviewees from Buurtzorg, Decathlon and Handelsbanken. Thanks for your openness and your willingness to share. I learned much from all of you and the enthusiasm with which you do your work is something I will not forget.
  4. 4. 4 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract........................................................................................................................2 Acknowledgements...................................................................................................3 Chapter 1 Introduction...............................................................................................5 Chapter 2 Theoretical framework........................................................................ 10 Chapter 3 The Context ..............................................................................................21 Chapter 4 Findings...................................................................................................29 Chapter 5 Conclusion ..............................................................................................47 Chapter 6 Methodology........................................................................................... 51 Chapter 7 Appendix................................................................................................. 58 Chapter 8 Bibliography ...........................................................................................62
  5. 5. 5 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 1.1 Why creativity? In an era in which information becomes of more and more value, organizations need to be flexible, creative and innovative in order to survive (Bakker, 2010; Lee & Edmondson, 2017). The question remains; How do you do this? What makes employees in one organization creative and innovative, while the employees of other organizations can’t seem to think of something creative and innovative even if their life dependent on it! After finishing my bachelor, I worked for a big corporate organization in which there was almost no room for creativity and people sharing new ideas. This doesn’t mean that there were no creative people. There were many, but most of the time they used their creativity to benefit themselves instead of the organization. One of the most creative solutions I heard was the following; Each team consisted of two recruiters, and targets for visiting companies that could be possible new customers were set for each team. If for some reason they did not reach their target by the end of the year, the recruiters had a trick up their sleeves; In the week from Christmas to New Years, they knew most of the companies were closed, or at least a lot of the personnel were on holiday. They would visit the companies unannounced, and most of the time left their business cards at the receptionist because the person that was responsible for these kind of appointments was not present, or they chucked their cards in the mailbox of the closed company and drove to the next company. Reaching their targets and therefore their bonus, without too much trouble. The result; happy managers that increased the target for next year with a certain percent, and so on and so on… You might say that this behavior is the result of ‘goal displacement’ (Bohte & Meier, 2000) can lead to employees reaching targets without fulfilling the intended goal as it was devised by management, in this case, acquiring new customers. I like to focus on the creative part, because let’s be honest, some of the solutions are rather brilliant. It completely changed how certain employees worked, however the organization did not benefit of this. Although actual numbers are absent, my personal experience leads me to believe that almost everyone can give an example of himself, a colleague or friends that found a loophole and used their creativity to reach targets without having the desired result for the organization. The reason why those employees use their creativity for personal gains instead of sharing their ideas with the organization, has always intrigued me. What would happen with organizations if there
  6. 6. 6 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity employees used their creativity to benefit the survival of the organization? To be able to find an answer to this question, it is necessary to know more about creativity and how it relates to different aspects within the organizational life. 1.2 Creativity and emotions What do you think of when you thinking of ‘creativity’? A painter? A writer? Something else? And did this image change? According to Styhre & Sundgren all of the above could be correct. They state that the mere word “creativity” triggers strong associations, and often people speak of creativity in “mystical tones- as though it were a prize that is possessed by only a few” (A. Styhre & Sundgren, 2005, p. xi). For some the chance to touch upon something mystical might be reason enough to pursue creativity, however Winnicot suggests there is even a more existential reason to do so. Winnicott, whose writings supposedly are cited more than Sigmund Freud’s (Kahr, 2016), states that “It is creative apperception more than anything else that makes the individual feel that life is worth living” (Winnicott, 1971, p. 65). With this statement he highlights the relationship between creativity and feelings and therefore with emotions. In most literature I encountered, the relationship between creativity and emotions in organizations is not explicitly discussed or it is not the focus of the research. What is described in numerous articles is the influence of specific emotions on creativity. Amabile (1993 & 1998) introduces the relationship between social psychology and creativity and discusses how peoples frustrations, motivation influenced the creative outcome, March, Ashkanasy, Neal, Fisher, & Rowe, (2010), present a new theory called “creativity-as-mood-regulation”(March et al., 2010, p. 279) in which they performed a research that shows how negative mood will increase creativity for certain type of employees. Averill (2001) even suggests that emotions itself can be the outcome of a creative process. He compares responding emotionally to a dancer interpreting a musical piece and expressing its emotional meaning. All these articles emphasize the relationship between creativity and emotions, however they do not take into account the organizational context and the employees perspective. Creativity and emotions in organizations When looking at creativity in organizations it is important to note that in most management literature the terms creativity and innovation often overlap. Some researchers even state that the distinction between innovation and creativity is perhaps one more of emphasis than one of substance (A. Styhre & Sundgren, 2005). However in literature on both creativity and innovation
  7. 7. 7 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity within the social context of organizations, the relationship with emotions is hardly ever or not mentioned at all. Following the, what seems to be, commonly accepted reasoning that there is a relationship between creativity and emotions, this would suggest that creativity and emotions in organizations are connected as well. However there is a gap in literature regarding this. Emotions can be influenced by social context, and therefore also the social context of an organization. Fineman’s (2000) view on emotions in organizations, illustrates why it is interesting, to further research the relationship between creativity and emotions in a specific context. Fineman describes organizations as “emotional arenas” (Fineman, 2000, p. 1). He explains that emotions such as fear, love, anger, embarrassment, anxiety, and nostalgia are part of the core of the organization and influence how roles are being enacted and learned, power is exercised, trust is held, commitment is formed and decisions are made. “Emotions are not simply excisable from these, and many other, organizational processes; they both characterize and inform them” (Fineman, 2000, p. 1). Therefore it would be naive to simply ignore the influence of emotions on, in this case creative, processes within organizations. 1.3 The problem The gap in literature on the relationship between emotions and creativity in organizations and how employees perceive this relationship, leaves room for speculation and interpretation. When one combines the influence of social context with how scholars view organizations as entities in which emotions have influence on all behavior, processes and decisions. It becomes clear that not taking into account the social context when researching the relationship between creativity and emotions seems naive and counterproductive. Especially if the goal is to understand a concept that is essential for organizations that want to survive the competitive and rapidly changing global market. 1.4 Research question To summarize; There is a gap in literature about the relationship between creativity and emotions in the organizational context. Both these concepts are interpreted and judged differently depending on social and organizational contexts, and could potentially influence the survival or continuity of an organization. There are multiple ways how I as a researcher could add to this gap in literature. The first is to repeat experiments that tested the influence of certain emotions of affective states on creativity (e.g. Isen, Daubman, & Nowicki, 1987; Mueller, Melwani, & Goncalo, 2012), in the organizational context. The second option would be to research how employees see the concept of creativity within their
  8. 8. 8 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity organization and research if and how they perceive a relationship between creativity and emotions within the organizational context. I chose the latter. In my literature research I was not able to find anyone actually asking employees what they thought creativity in organizations was and what helped them be creative. While they are the ones that need to be creative in order for organizations to develop new ideas, products, processes or innovative ways of working. For me this is an important reason to do a research that could add value to the academic world, without losing touch with the reality of day to day practices within organizations. To do so I have devised the following research question; Do employees perceive a relationship between creativity and emotions in the organizational context, and how does this influence their creativity? To be able to fully answer the main research question of this research, I will need to get a better understanding of how employees perceive creativity in organizations in the first place. To do so I will use the following sub question; How do employees define the concept of creativity in their organization? By answering these questions I hope to add another piece of the puzzle that fits in the literary gap regarding the topic of creativity in organizations. I aim to answer these questions in a way that not just has theoretical relevance, but also is recognizable, relevant and perhaps even interesting for organizations that deal with these concepts on a daily basis. 1.5 Why is this relevant? Scientific relevance As mentioned, creativity and emotions in organizations are rarely or not conceptualized in relation to each other in current literature. As is argued by different scholars both creativity and emotions are influenced by their social context (T. Amabile, 1983; Bakker, 2010; Fineman, 2000; Hochschild, 1983), therefore it is interesting to research how employees perceive this relationship within their organizational context. By finding an answer to this research question, this research will fill a gap in scientific literature on creativity and innovation within organizations. Practical relevance According to many scholars, managers and CEO’s, organizations that are creative can have an enormous advantages over other organizations in terms of market share. Organizations that are not creative and innovative can end up with serious problems of survival (Bakker, 2010). Over the last
  9. 9. 9 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity few years, the amount of information has increased, this requires organizations to be more flexible and creative than ever before to survive and gain advantage over competitors (Bakker, 2010; Lee & Edmondson, 2017). To enable this creativity in the best way possible for both employee and organization, it is essential to better understand the concept of creativity in organizations. This research will aim to do so by focussing on the employees perspective and how they perceive creativity in organizations and what factors are of influence. 1.6 How will this be researched? In this explorative study, I will review the current scientific discourse on the two main concepts of this thesis, creativity and emotions. To be able to find an answer to the main resource question, I will conduct several pilot interviews in order to test and develop the questions and interview tactics, which can be used for this research. After this I will continue to interview a total of twelve people equally divided over three self-managing organizations. By combining the data from these interviews with literature, I aim to fill the gap in literature and answer the main question of this research. In order to gain access at the different organizations of my research, I have engaged in a collaboration with the consultancy company Corporate Rebels. This collaboration will allow me to enter the organizations at several management levels, adding value to the credibility and practical applicability of my research. The data I will gather at three different organizations during this fieldwork period will be a combination of unstructured interviews, observations and informal talks. Due to time constrains, the gathering of data will be studying a particular phenomenon at a particular time, therefore this research will be cross-sectional. In chapter 6 of this thesis I will discuss and elaborate on the methodology of this research. 1.7 Structure Just as the brain is trying to combine and restructure information during the creative process, I will try and bring order and structure in the information gathered during my research. To do so, I will first give an overview of the current discourse in academic literature on creativity and emotions. In chapter 3 I will introduce the different organizations and their context, from which I gathered my empirical data. Describing the context of the researched organizations leads up to chapter 4, in which I will present and elaborate on the empirical data I gathered during my research. After introducing the literature, giving context and presenting the empirical data, I will draw conclusions and add some final remarks. In the last chapter I will present the research methods I used during this research and reflect on this research.
  10. 10. 10 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity CHAPTER 2 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK In the following chapter I will discuss the current academical discourse about the concepts of creativity and emotions. I will introduce multiple perspectives on each concept before I will elaborate on the social perspective. Using these perspectives I will formulate definition which I can and will use during the fieldwork period. 2.1 Creativity People use ‘mystical tones’ to speak of creativity (A. Styhre & Sundgren, 2005). These ‘mystical tones’ illustrate the complexness and perhaps even vagueness that surrounds creativity as a concept; as if it is hiding in the fog. In an attempt to clear this fog and make the concept of creativity visible, I will discuss the main theoretical concepts of creativity, and introduce three different perspectives on the creative process that all have significant influence on its outcome. These perspectives can be categorized into, the neurological, the psychological and the main focus of this research; the sociological. 2.1.1 The Neurological perspective; “Cells that fire together, wire together” In order to explain the biological perspective on the process of creativity, neuroscientist Fuster (2013a) introduces the term ‘the cognit’ to illustrate how memories are stored in the brain and how they help in creating ‘new’ ideas. “The cognit (…) a piece of knowledge or memory in the form of a distributed network of neurons of the cerebral cortex. That network represents one of myriad possible facts or experiences of mine, the individual. They may range widely in content, from an early childhood memory to a recent memory: (…) the list is infinite. Some memories are linked to others, “holding hands” through tenuous or strong connections in cortical gray matter. Some are within others, like matryoshka dolls. Some are emotionally “neutral”; others carry emotional connotations.” (Fuster, 2013a, pp. 62–63). By using the term cognit, Fuster paves the way for explaining how ‘new ideas’ come to live. He uses two basic biophysical principles that are subsequently verified and were originally proposed by psychologist Hebb in 1949. These principles basically state that cells that fire together strengthen their contacts, so if these cells fire together multiple times, the connection between them becomes stronger than before; “Cells that fire together wire together” (Fuster, 2013a, p. 69). Another influence on these cognits is emotion (Christianson, 1992; Fuster, 2013a; Phelps, 2004). Phelps states that “there is abundant evidence that memories for emotional events have a persistence and vividness that other memories seem to lack” (2004, p. 1).
  11. 11. 11 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity How does the strength of cognits and the connection between other cognits help create ‘new’ ideas? According to Fuster (2013a) it takes cognits to self-organize within the brain. This reorganizing, connecting to different cognits and making new connections, is a complex task because cognits do not have a fixed place in the brain. I will use the following example to explain how this can lead to ‘new’ ideas; When thinking of the word ‘blue’, it might also trigger thoughts of water, sky, the blue car your parents had or one of unlimited other associations. It might even trigger you thinking of the colour red, which might trigger its own associations in a similar way that blue did. These associations, is actually your brain firing the cells in which the cognit blue is stored, and wired to that cognit there are other cognits. What we learned from Fuster is that if these cells have in the past been fired together often enough, then activating the cognit blue can also activate other cognits which are wired to the cognit blue. Essentially, the combining of cognits/ideas makes it possible to create a ‘new’ idea in between two existing cognits. This can be used for solving problems/tasks which one never encountered before, so there is no existing cognit on how to perform the action. For example try to picture a blue tree. You probably never thought about this combination before however your brain is able to combine these into a ‘new’ idea using the cognits associated with blue and those associated with a tree, and eventually creates the cognit of a blue tree. See figure 1 for an illustration how such a new combination could be structured. Figure 1 Emergence of a new cognit in between two existing cognits This process of combining cognits takes time, therefore most scholars theorize creativity as a process “through time, rather than a static trait of individuals or of certain creative products”(Sawyer, 2003, p. 14). However, as is explained by the cells that wire together fire together principle, the next time the cognit ‘tree’ or ‘blue’ is fired, it takes less time and energy to also fire the cognit ‘blue tree’.
  12. 12. 12 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity This neurological perspective on the creative process, suggests that ideas can never be new, but are always a combination of two or more existing cognits/ideas (Fuster, 2013b; Sawyer, 2003). This emphasizes the importance of available knowledge stored in existing cognits in order to be able to combine and create new combinations. 2.1.2 A psychological perspective on creativity; The stages of Eureka! Most scholars agree on the fact that the creative process takes time (Sawyer, 2003), but how is it possible then that when you’re taking a shower, or a walk in the park and then seemingly out of nowhere the answer to the problem you were having for ages pops up. What we know from the neuroscience perspective that this process is not as spontaneous as one might perceive it. It probably took a lot of neurons to fire, reorganize and wire together before you came up with this brilliant idea. We know that there are almost unlimited possibilities for cognits to combine with other cognits, so how come that exactly this brilliant solution for the problem emerged? I will use the ‘four-staged model of the creative process’ as devised by Wallas in 1926 to explain. Even after more than nine decades, Wallas’s model is still being used as an conceptual basis by many creativity researchers (e.g. Lubart, 2001; Sadler-Smith, 2015; Sawyer, 2003, see Sadler-Smith 2015 for a list of researchers who used the four-staged model as basis for their work). To come up with his model, Wallas used work of Poincaré, Helmholtz and several poets such as Remy de Gourmont. From their work, and personal notes he distilled four different stages within the process of creativity; Preparation: In this stage the preliminary work is done, this contains collecting data, information, searching for related ideas, and determine what is exactly the problem that has to be solved (Sadler- Smith, 2015; Sawyer, 2003). “The mode of thought in preparation is conscious, ‘‘voluntary’’ (Wallas, 1926, p. 85) and ‘‘regulated’’ rather than a ‘‘wild ranging of the mind’’ (p. 83)”(Sadler-Smith, 2015, p. 4). Linking this to the concept of cognits as described by Fuster (2013a), one could state that in this stage new cognits containing specific knowledge or memories are constructed. Incubation: In this stage the unconscious has an important role. Wallas described this as involuntary mental events taking place in the unconscious part of the brain. There is no conscious mental work on the problem during this stage, a person can be focussed on other conscious work or take mental rest. During this the unconscious brain is working relentlessly, forming associative trains an and new combinations between cognits (Lubart, 2001; Sadler-Smith, 2015; Sawyer, 2003; Wallas, 1926). This essential role of the unconscious mind in combining ideas takes time and leads up to the next stage of Wallas’s model.
  13. 13. 13 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity Illumination: In this stage it is as if someone turned on a light within your head so you could see exactly where the answer to your problem was hidden. All of the work that is done during the unconscious stage works up to this moment. Scholars are not certain in what part of the brain this process takes place and how it is organized. The main reason for this doubt is stated by Poincaré who suggested that the brain didn’t work random, but used a sense of, what he referred to as, “aesthetic criteria” that helped the unconscious to reject the majority of useless ideas or combinations and allowed for promising ideas to be selected (Lubart, 2001; Sadler-Smith, 2015; Sawyer, 2003). Wallas described this as the “fringe of consciousness”(Wallas, 1926, p. 97). Verification: “Not all insights are good ideas” (Sawyer, 2003, p. 15). During this stage of conscious work this is being evaluated, refined and developed in order to make sure that it solves the problem as stated during the preparation stage (Lubart, 2001; Sadler-Smith, 2015; Sawyer, 2003; Wallas, 1926). However, the outcome of what is perceived as a good idea is highly subjective and could be influenced by social context (T. Amabile, 1983, 1998). These various stages don’t have to be linear. During the verification stage one could go back to the preparation stage in order to identify new sides of the problem. Or one could even be in multiple stages at the same time; in preparation for one aspect of a problem and incubation or even verification for another aspect of the problem (Lubart, 2001; Vinacke, 1972). The four-staged model of creativity seems generally accepted and used by scholars. However there is still discussion on how each of these stages function and what influence different parts of the brain have on the outcome of the process. Critics suggest that the creative process isn’t as linear as the term stage suggests, but that it is a constant process of evaluating incubating and combining ideas. 2.1.3 Creativity from the social perspective of an organization; ‘Organizational creativity’ The previous perspectives on creativity all focused on creativity of and even within the individual, this suggests that creativity is a product of the individual. According to many social scientists this is not the case, they emphasize on the influence of external factors on the creative process. Csikzentmihalyi (1994) and Ford (1996) suggest that creativity is not something that is only individual, but rather something that needs to be looked at from a systemic perspective which includes social context. Creativity is not a quality that belongs to one person, product or place, but it’s rather something that is socially constructed and has judges who serve as gatekeepers of the specific domain it’s in. They refer to organizational creativity (Feldman et al., 1994; Ford & Gioia, 1996; A.
  14. 14. 14 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity Styhre & Sundgren, 2005). In their book Styhre & Sundgren (2005), gather different definitions of the term organizational creativity before concluding that organizational creativity could be defined as; “A phenomenon that is structurally embedded in the organization rather than being some innate quality of a few extraordinary individuals, *…+ emphasizing that organizational creativity is something more than a collection of creative individuals.” (A. Styhre & Sundgren, 2005, p. 31) This suggests that creativity is within an organization and not just within individuals working in organizations. This is where it gets almost philosophical; If creativity is in an organization and not just in creative individuals that are themselves within an organization, it suggests that organizations have influence on creativity and that they are not as dependent on exceptional creative individuals to come up with new ideas. Let me clarify; yes, organizations still need individuals for their creative insights, however these individuals don’t have to be creative by nature, their creativity can be, positively or negatively influenced by external (social) factors (T. Amabile, 1998; T. M. Amabile, 1988; Feldman et al., 1994; Ford & Gioia, 1996). Amabile (1988) study illustrates this. In her study she researched creativity within the organizational context and concluded that in her interviews certain qualities of environments came forward. Nine of those environmental qualities had positive effect on creativity; Freedom, Good Project Management, Sufficient Resources, Encouragement, Various Organizational Characteristics (an atmosphere where failure is not fatal), Recognition, Sufficient time, Challenge, Pressure. Nine other environmental qualities inhibited creativity within organizations; Various organizational characteristics (e.g. inappropriate reward systems), Constraint, Organizational Disinterest, Poor Project Management, Evaluation, Insufficient Resources, Time Pressure, Overemphasis on the Status Quo, Competition. Other more experimental studies showed that giving strong formulated tasks and weaker formulated tasks, influenced the creativity of the volunteers. Results showed that the answers were more creative in the weaker formulated tasks then in the stronger formulated tasks. This showed that creativity can be increased by changing the way tasks are formulated (Erez & Nouri, 2010). Amabile adds another aspect to how social context can influence creativity. Her definition of the concept of creativity helps explain this; “A product or response is creative to the extent that appropriate observers independently agree it is creative. Appropriate observers are those familiar with the domain in which the product was created or the response articulated. Thus, creativity can be regarded as the
  15. 15. 15 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity quality of products judged to be creative by appropriate observers, and it can also be regarded as the process by which something so judged is produced.” (T. Amabile, 1983, p. 31) With this definition she highlights an important aspect of creativity; it’s subjective nature. For something to be experienced as creative, it needs to be judged as such by judges who are appropriate. This interpretive and subjective aspect of creativity is highly susceptible for influences by the social context, for example via peer-pressure, group-think, or specific socially constructed biases (Erez & Nouri, 2010; Feldman et al., 1994). 2.1.4 Defining creativity By introducing and explaining these different perspectives on creativity I have tried to emphasize how these perspectives interact and work together within the concept of creativity. I want to emphasize further that it’s hard or almost impossible to merely look at creativity from only one perspective. The different perspectives are built on each other and each has aspects that can also be found in the other perspectives (e.g. time is named as an important factor within all three perspectives). In order to properly research the process of creativity I have combined these multiple perspectives and distilled the following definition of creativity; Creativity is the process of creating a new idea from combining two or more existing pieces of knowledge. This process is a process through time, is undergoing constant internal and external evaluation, and is merely perceived as creative when the social context judges it as such. I will use this definition during my fieldwork and test if this definition of creativity is applicable for creativity within organizations. With this I will be able to further research this concept and how employees perceive its relationship to emotions in organizations.
  16. 16. 16 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity 2.2 Defining Emotions Now that we defined creativity, I will introduce the concept of emotions and especially emotions in organizations. It seems like a rather logical and rational choice to use this order, and it might as well could be, however according to scholars most of our choices are not just rational or logical at all but are influenced by emotions (Damasio, 1994; Fineman, 2000; Fineman, Sims, & Gabriel, 2010). Some of these scholars even suggest that over 90% of the decisions we make are influenced by emotions. Because emotions are closely related to the choices we make, they can have much influence on our lives on a day to day basis. In the next few paragraphs I will discuss the scholarly debate about the biological and psychological perspective of emotions, after that I will elaborate on the social aspect of emotions. After introducing the basics of emotions, I will go into further depth and elaborate on how emotions are influenced by the social context of organizations. 2.2.1 Emotions 101 The ‘Organismic Model’ is one of the first models that tried to capture the concept of emotions. This model has a biological background and is based upon the work of Darwin, Freud and James (Hochschild, 2003). They looked at emotions as if it is a biological process, but all had different theories on the source of this process. Darwin focused on the gestures of emotions, Freud focused on anxiety and this emotion being more important than other emotions and James suggested that emotion is the brain’s conscious reaction to instinctual changes. All of them agree that emotions have a signal function, they prepare someone to get ready for action. According to critics, all these theories missed a social aspect (Gerth & Mills, 1972; Hochschild, 2003), just as Darwin would have liked, the model evolved. The ‘Interaction Model’ presupposes biology and adds social entry. The influence of social factors on the experience of emotions doesn’t happen during a fixed point in the process, it happens during the whole experience of emotions. Fineman, Gabriel & Sims (2010) give the example of a call-centre representative who was angry because a customer started screaming at her. When he calmed down and apologised, the call-centre representative said; ‘I understand’ while the emotion she felt was something completely different; She had to hold back her anger. This, according to the interactional model, is because of the influence of the social context. The call-centre representative handled the situation in this way because she knew it was ‘professional’ or because she knew her job or manager demanded this of her. This example illustrates one of the main points of the interactional model; social context influences emotions and how people react to those emotions.
  17. 17. 17 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity These two models form the basis for researching emotions in organizations, newer theories use aspects of both models to further develop and research new aspects of emotions in organizations. 2.2.2 Emotions and the social context While being inspired by several influential writers such as, Dewey, Gerth and Mills, Goffman, Darwin and Freud (Wouters, 1989), Hochschild (1983) was one of the first to take aspects of both models and combine them into something new. She gave her theory the rather logical name; ‘A new social theory of emotions’. Hochschild uses aspects from the earlier models of emotions as a foundation for her theory, however she disagrees with some other aspects of these models. She sums up the differences “It is not simply true that the malleable aspect of emotion is "social" (the focus of the interactional theorists) and that the unmalleable aspect of emotion is its biological link to action (the focus of the organismic theorists). Rather, the unmalleable aspect of emotion (which is what we try to manage) is also social” (Hochschild, 1983, p. 230). This important distinction suggests that each aspect of emotion could be influenced by the social context, and therefore this relationship between emotions and social context becomes even more important than was already suspected. In her book ‘The managed heart’(1983) Hochschild focused on emotions in organizations, she did so by looking at the ‘emotional labour’ of flight attendants and the ‘feeling rules’ that influenced these emotions (Hochschild, 1979, 1983). Hochschild defined emotional labour as “the management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display”(Hochschild, 1983, p. 7). With this management of feeling Hochschild means the effort one has to do to show the emotions that are required or part of the job. Haman and Putnam (2008) add that emotional labour is always aligned with “overt managerial control” (Haman & Putnam, 2008, p. 63). With that Haman & Putnam suggested that if employees engage with emotions that are desired by the organization, managers might reward them with promotions or salary increase. Similarly, managers may punish employees that not perform the proper emotional labour by giving them negative performance evaluations or firing them. Whilst appreciating Hochschild’s work, critics tend to judge her new theory on emotions as not social enough. Theodosius (2006) is one of those critics. In her article she tries to “recover emotion by identifying hidden unconscious emotion processes from its management.”(Theodosius, 2006, p. 16). Theodosius suggests that Hochschild’s new social theory doesn’t account for the interactive relational experience of emotions that occurs between people, the individual and their emotions are examined as concepts that are isolated from the rest of the world. In her observations Hochschild
  18. 18. 18 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity sees passengers as passive participants. Hochschild argues that prescribed external feeling rules determine how we manage emotions. According to Theodosius, this results in the displacement of the actual interactive moment between two people, or groups of people. The consequence of this displacement is that the emotions they engender between the people who are involved in the interaction, are also displaced. This could be especially relevant for organizations in which employees have numerous interactions each and every day. A theory that doesn’t take these interactions into account will not fully capture the complexity of emotions in organizations. 2.2.3 Emotions in organizations In an attempt to fully capture the intense activity of lived emotions in organizational life, Stephen Fineman characterized organizations as “emotional arenas”(2000). He emphasized that the research into emotions in organizations has developed into a sub-discipline for academics studying organizations. Not so strange, considering their perspective on emotions as being everywhere within organizations (material objects as actors, e.g. Fineman, 2000), between people (clients or colleagues e.g. Fineman et al., 2010; Goffman, 1956; Arlie Russell Hochschild, 1979; Theodosius, 2006), within the body (e.g. Fineman, 2000; Goffman, 1956; Johnson & Johnson, 2009) and sometimes even in the air (smell, e.g. Fineman, 2000). Fineman makes a distinction between traditional psychoanalytical perspectives and a social constructionist perspective on emotion in organizations. According to him, the traditional perspective looked at organizations as a “cauldron of repressed thoughts, fantasies and desires” (Fineman, 2000, p. 2). Emotions as fear, hate, anxiety and envy, were labeled as “Dysfunctional organizational agendas or practices”(Fineman, 2000, p. 2), which had to be ignored and expunged in order to fight of the ‘demon of irrationality’. Over the last few decennia, the social constructionist perspective has overshadowed the traditional psychoanalytical perspective in most scientific literature (Fineman, 2000). The social constructionist perspective is very different. It focuses on the influence of social context on how our feelings, thoughts and sensations are labeled and displayed, the social and cultural contexts provide the vocabularies and rules of emotion. “Emotions, therefore, are intersubjective, a product of the way systems of meaning are created and negotiated between people”(Fineman, 2000, p. 2). Unlike the traditional psychoanalytical approach, the social constructionist approach accepts emotions as being existential for organizations and focuses on how these emotions are socially constructed. Different scholars focus on different aspects on how this happens and how this influences the way employees perceive emotions.
  19. 19. 19 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity To understand we need to look closer at how emotions can be socially constructed, and what kind of influence this can have on employees. Fineman (2008) explains that a process of social valuation produces an emotionology; “Society’s ‘take’ on the way certain emotions are to be directed and expressed” (Fineman, 2008, p. 2). They are produced and reproduced by all forms of discursive and institutional practices, such as family, television programs, films, schools, the internet, religious authorities, organizations, governments, and even one’s own experiences of emotions during a specific task (Fineman, 2000, 2008; Fineman et al., 2010; Hareli & Rafaeli, 2008; Hochschild, 1983; Theodosius, 2006). What this can lead to is that a person recognizes a situation and knows that, based on what he learned from discursive and institutional practices, a certain emotion should be felt. Different scholars focus on different aspects of the social construction of emotions, I will use the following fictive example to illustrate how different theories on emotions can interact or be applicable and of influence during one incident. Simone, one of my colleagues goes to her meeting with our manager. Yesterday he send an email saying that he needed to speak to everyone in as soon as possible and that he would elaborate on the topic during the meeting, but that there was no need to worry. I talked about it with some colleagues, and we were quite curious about what would be discussed, perhaps we’ll finally get that pay raise!? The next day the first colleague who scheduled an appointment returns to the floor after about 10 minutes. She looks terribly mad and when we make eye-contact she can’t hold back her tears anymore; “He’s a jerk! He’s never here, and he always presumes we do nothing!” she screams. “I don’t care that he says he’s being told to downscale the team, we’re the most important department of this whole organization!”. “Wait what?, did you tell him that as well?” asks a colleague. “NO! of course I didn’t, he just shared his message and he told me that now was not the time to ask questions!” Mark, who’s next to speak to our manager is quiet and looks scared. The others see him sitting there, and get a worried look upon their face. In my head I repeat the last line from the email; “No need to worry….” During the conversation with her manager, Simone felt as if she couldn’t say anything to her manager. When using Fineman’s (2000) article, it seems clear that Simone felt she had to act in a certain way during the meeting with her manager. A way in which there was no room for emotions, or at least not for the emotions Simone felt. She had to perform some kind of emotional labor (Hochschild, 1983), and according to Fineman this had to do with her manager being the ‘audience’. Fineman sees emotions as “being performed, in a particular context for a particular audience (bosses, colleagues, customers, clients, patients, competitors) – people to be influenced or
  20. 20. 20 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity impressed, placated or befriended, repelled or shamed”(Fineman, 2008). When using this theory, it seems highly probable, that Simone didn’t dare to share emotions because she felt it was not appropriate to show her emotions of anger while her manager was the audience. This ‘act’ dropped when the audience changed, as she came back in the room with her colleagues. After Simone shared her real emotions with her colleagues, another example of how a person emotional state can get influenced by the social context became visible. “Mood contagion is the unconscious transfer of mood between individuals, such as when the negative mood of one individual leads co-workers to feel more negative” (Johnson & Johnson, 2009, p. 8). In the example given Mark gets influenced by the emotions of Simone, he is quiet and looks scared. When the others see him they copy his behavior and seem to be worried as well. According to Johnson and Johnson (2009), this kind of mood contagion can happen through the automatic and unconscious tendency of individuals to mimic and synchronize expressions, postures and movements of others. This mimicking can occur without individuals even being aware which behavior they are mimicking and to which mood this can be related. This makes the contagion of mood something that likely influence unconscious mood through subliminal processing (Johnson & Johnson, 2009). In the example given the effect is negative, however individuals who work in organization with a very positive culture with employees who are happy and positive, are likely to experience more positive moods and emotions (Cooper & Williams, 1994). 2.2.4 An emotional perspective Now that we’ve completed this emotional journey through literature, I have developed a perspective on the concept of emotions I will use for this research. This social constructionist perspective on emotions, includes the assumptions that emotions are everywhere in organizations, and how those emotions are performed or perceived depends on social context, physical location, the local discourse and institutional practices and all of this can be influenced by unconscious subliminal processes. Using this perspective I will continue to research how employees perceive a relationship between creativity and emotions in organizations.
  21. 21. 21 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity CHAPTER 3 THE CONTEXT This research is performed at three organizations Buurtzorg, Svenska Handelsbanken and Decathlon. Based on Lee & Edmondson’s (2017) definition, these three organizations can be defined as “Self- managing organizations”. In this chapter I will explain what Self-managing organizations are, I will introduce the organizations I have researched and will end this chapter with a comparison between the three organizations. 3.1 What are self-managing organizations? To better understand the context of this research, I will first give some background information on self-managing organizations and how they differ from traditional and hierarchical organizations. The last 50 years the limitations of the hierarchical organizational model became more and more apparent (Lee & Edmondson, 2017) and alternatives emerged. This led to organizations that implemented methods to change from hierarchical ways of organizing, to organizing forms in which authority is decentralized (Laloux, 2014) and employees are more engaged. Giving those organizations substantial benefits which allowed them to maintain successful in a dynamic and intense competitive world (Cohen & Ledford, 1994; Muthusamy, Wheeler, & Simmons, 2005; Nandram, 2017; Wall, Kemp, Jackson, & Clegg, 1986). Lee and Edmondson identify and define three major requirements that are essential for self- managing organizations. The first requirement is radical decentralization of authority, they define this as “the elimination of the reporting relationship between manager and subordinate”(Lee & Edmondson, 2017, p. 12). By decentralizing the authority, managerial roles and tasks will be distributed amongst employees or team members in a way that is not permanent, unbounded, or vested in hierarchical rank (Lee & Edmondson, 2017; Manz, 1992). This does not automatically mean that the managers disappear, however the traditional way of managing changes. A manager needs to become a supportive leader who helps employees make their own decisions, instead of deciding for them. The second requirement is that of a formal system that “codifies how authority is decentralized in the organization through a set of explicit rules or principles”(Lee & Edmondson, 2017). By using a formal system, the organization makes sure that the decentralization of authority is not only an informal arrangement between managers and their subordinates. If this formalization of the decentralization of authority is absent, there is the chance that employees are influenced by social pressure to make certain choices (Barker, 1993; Lee & Edmondson, 2017; Manz, 1992). This could lead to employees
  22. 22. 22 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity making socially accepted choices, or the choice their manager would like, instead of choosing what they think is best for the organization. The third requirement Lee and Edmondson identify is that the decentralization of authority has to occur throughout the organization. “The formal rules apply to everyone in the organization, from front-line employees to mid- and senior-level employees”(Lee & Edmondson, 2017). If this is not the case, then inequities between employees will still exist, and therefore the term self-managing organization will not be applicable. Self-management organizations can be highly heterogeneous (Lee & Edmondson, 2017), they can differ in structure and formal rules. When comparing multiple case studies on self-managing organizations it is almost impossible to find organizations that are structured and formed exactly the same (e.g. Barker, 1993; Ciborra, 1996; Luo, Van de Ven, Jing, & Jiang, 2018; Nandram, 2015). The three organizations I conducted my research at, also differ in form and way of organizing but can all be categorized as Self-managing organizations. To summarize; Self-managing organizations are a counterpart of the traditional hierarchical way of working, each organization differs in structure but all have at least three things in common. They radically decentralized authority, which doesn’t mean that there are no more managers, they have a formal system that supports this decentralization of authority and have implemented this way of working of the whole organization. By doing so the employees receive more power and room to make their own decisions, experience more freedom, are allowed to learn from their mistakes and feel more engaged with the organization. 3.2 The organizations I will introduce the three organizations at which I conducted my research. I will do so by first giving background information about the organization and its history, after that I will use the three requirements of self-managing organizations as introduced by Lee & Edmondson(2017) to identify why these organizations can be categorized as self-managing organizations. 3.2.1 Buurtzorg After the 1990’s, when the Dutch government decided to reform the healthcare system. Multiple home care groups merged, hoping to benefit by creating an economy of scale (Nandram, 2015). In order to manage this they came up with new organizational structures and devised a control system by setting time limits for the different tasks nurses had to perform. Tasks such as helping a patient to bathe, changing clothes or give medication, thereby leaving almost no room for nurses to act upon
  23. 23. 23 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity their own instincts and socialize with their patients. Those patients often had more than 30 different nurses helping them each month (Nandram, 2015). In 2006 Jos de Blok, a former community nurse and manager, came with an alternative and founded Buurtzorg. Buurtzorg started with two teams of 12 nurses. Nowadays Buurtzorg employs around 14,000 nurses working in 950 teams across the country and serve about 70,000 patients each year (Nandram, 2017). He founded an organization which did not emphasize on paperwork and highly regulated care, but instead provided the care that was needed with minimal administrative oversight and with focus on the patients wellbeing. All this in collaboration with the patients, their families, physicians, and the community (Monsen & De Blok, 2013). The main aim for the people working at Buurtzorg is “to make their patient stronger and independent.” De Blok even argues that good district nurses “should aim to make themselves superfluous” (Sheldon, 2017, p. 1). Buurtzorg consists of self-managing regional teams, and just 50 employees (0,36% of total employees) who handle administrative tasks. The teams of nurses are formed independently and consist of a maximum of 12 people. These teams are self-governing and provide all care that is necessary for their patients. The nurses decide together with their team and the patients what the schedule will be and are able to make decisions based on their experience and knowledge whether to spent more time at one patient than at another. Within the teams there are no managers, all the decisions are made collectively, however teams can call in the help of regional coaches in order to help the team find solutions for certain problems (Brouwer, 2017; Monsen & De Blok, 2013; Nandram & Koster, 2014; Sheldon, 2017). These coaches have no hierarchical power, their role is to ask the insightful questions that help teams find their own solutions. “The coach’s role is not to prevent foreseeable problems, but to support teams in solving them” (Laloux, 2014, p. 70). The way Buurtzorg is organized proves to be highly successful for both clients and employees. Overhead costs and absenteeism are half or even less of regular homecare organizations . Patients improved twice as fast in half the time, with one-third viewer visits by nurses then other homecare organizations and based on the Consumer Quality Index of 2012 (9.1) & 2013 (9.5), the patients were highly satisfied (Monsen & De Blok, 2013; Nandram, 2017). Just as the patients the employees of Buurtzorg are happy as well, Buurtzorg was named best employer in 2012 and in 2013 employee satisfaction score was an 8.9 (Nandram, 2017). To summarize; Buurtzorg is an healthcare organization in which self-managing teams aim to help their patients as good as possible. To do so they enable their employees to use their experience and knowledge in order to make decisions, plan and act in ways they think is best for the patient and for
  24. 24. 24 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity Buurtzorg. This freedom leads to an open atmosphere in which there is room for emotions, to discuss choices, and make mistakes. Their internal ‘social media’ enables employees to share knowledge and personal stories quickly and helps the board gather information and input for strategic decisions in an open and transparent way. What makes Buurtzorg a self-managing organization? Buurtzorg can be seen as a prime example of a self-managing organization. From the beginning they have organized themselves as an organization in which authority was radically decentralized for the, it has a formal system in which it is declared that decisions are made by the regional teams and strategic decisions are open for feedback and input from everyone within the organization. 3.2.2 Handelsbanken The Swedish bank Handelsbanken was founded in 1871. The first few decades the bank grew rather slow and its organizational structure and management style were rather traditional. This all changed when Jan Wallander arrived at the bank in the 1960’. He started to convince the board that radical changes were necessary. Wallander wanted to reform Handelsbanken into a decentralized organization with strong local branches. He redesigned management practices to support that decentralization (Brunninge, 2005). The board agreed and these changes are still in place and are one of the main reasons Handelsbanken is as successful as it is. Now active in over 24 countries employing over 14.000 people, Handelsbanken is specialized in private and business banking and famous for its customer focused approach. Another aspect in which Handelsbanken differs from traditional banking institutions is their approach to budgeting. They don’t do that. They reason; why spend up to 30 percent of your time and resources on planning, setting targets and predicting the future, if within a few months everything can have changed and it doesn’t correspond with the actual outcome anymore. Their alternative is to focus on return-on- equity, cost-to-income ratio and customer satisfaction (Daum, 2002). In this way they involve everyone in the organization, and stimulate them to make plans themselves, instead of being told what they need to do. Handelsbanken enables their employees to take decisions and approve loans, without having to follow al kind of prescribed processes to do so. By doing so Handelsbanken’s philosophy, to make 90% to 95% of the decisions locally, can be realized. Their performance measurements system is simple; Perform relatively better than the market. In order to measure this, Handelsbanken uses benchmarks to see how well they are performing compared to their competitors. With this they created a performance climate that focuses on doing better than the competition, instead of reaching targets which could eventually impair the customer.
  25. 25. 25 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity To summarize; Handelsbanken’s way of focusing on customer satisfaction in combination with a decentralized organization and a high focus on ownership and responsibility of employees has made them unique in the financial sector. This in combination with their conservative course is the main reason for their success . The organization itself is, compared to other financial organizations, rather open and less competitive towards colleagues. There is a sense of doing things together and people feel as if they can share personal things that stand in the way in their day to day business, without having to worry for their job. Employees help each other and aim to reach their shared goal; making their customers happy, while being as efficient as possible. What makes Handelsbanken a self-managing organization? Handelsbanken still has several management layers within their organization, which might feel contradictive when using the term “self-managing”. However when using the three requirements of SMO’s as described by Lee & Edmondson (2017), Handelsbanken can clearly defined as a self- managing organization. Authority is radically decentralized, up to 95% of the decisions are made locally. There is a formal system in which this decentralization is included, and these rules apply to the entire organization. The managers at Handelsbanken have a supportive role, they help make their employees make decisions. 3.2.3 Decathlon The France retailer Decathlon, which specializes in sports and outdoor utilities, opened its first store in 1976. Over the last 40 years this organization grew to over 1100 stores in 40 different countries, employing over 70.000 people. The first forty years Decathlon had rather traditional and hierarchical way of organizing. With the arrival of the new CEO, Michel Aballea, in 2015 this al changed. Aballea noticed that the Decathlon stores were changing into ‘elephants’ and were unable to move and react quickly to the local market. This observation became the start of a transformation towards an organization that became more decentralized and could react quicker to the local market conditions. This change started with getting rid of most management layers, leaving just four management layers; The worldwide CEO (Michel Aballea),a Country leader, Store leader and the Sport or Project leader. Aballea didn’t set any deadlines or targets for when the change should be implemented. He figured that in order to become a decentralized organization, he needed to trust his employees in choosing the right pace and making the right decisions based on what they see on the floors, or hear from their employees. This meant that the transition and changes that are being made can differ between certain countries or even between stores in the same country. One thing is the same for all stores,
  26. 26. 26 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity there has been a shift from focusing on profit towards a more purpose and value driven focus in which Decathlon’s mission, ‘Making sports available for everyone’, is central. Decathlon got rid of most of its managers and management layers. This was done by redistributing all the tasks within the organization. They did so in order to match tasks with the right employees, and enabling those employees to use their talents in a way that benefited the organization and themselves. The role of the managers that did stay changed drastically, their role shifted towards a more supportive role then an hierarchical role. In this way they enabled the talents of their employees and held them learn from their mistakes. Decathlon believes that giving their employees responsibilities for the things they like to do, engages them better with the organization, which results in those employees being willing to add and work towards the common goal of Decathlon, ‘Making sports available for everyone’. To summarize; Decathlon is in the midst of transition from a rather hierarchical towards a decentralized way of working. Their organization is highly customer focused and aims to enable personal growth to primarily benefit the employee and not just the organization. They do so by creating an open atmosphere in which any employee can ask any colleague to become his coach. By doing so they stimulate that people invest in themselves, create room for them to share problems and learn from their mistakes. What makes Decathlon a self-managing organization? The last few years Decathlon has become more and more self-managing. Nowadays the authority is decentralized and this is done based on a formal system in which this is integrated. It is the intention for the whole organization to become self-managing, however because this happens in a self- managing way, not all stores or countries follow the same path, and are free to decide on the speed in which this progresses. Therefore they do not always work in a self-managed way already, however they do have influence on this process. Therefore I state that Decathlon also fulfills the last requirement of a self-managing organization. 3.3 Comparing the three organizations As was mentioned by Lee & Edmondson (2017), self-managing organizations can be very heterogeneous and almost none of those organizations are structured in exactly the same way. This is also the case at the three organizations of my research. First I will elaborate on the differences and commonalities of these organization, and then I will further explain why chose these three organizations for my research.
  27. 27. 27 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity 3.3.1 Differences When looking at all three organizations there are definitely some differences. One of the biggest differences is the sectors in which these organizations are active, Buurtzorg is active in healthcare, Handelsbanken in finance and Decathlon in the retail sector. Then there is a difference in origin. Both Decathlon and Handelsbanken originally had a rather hierarchical way of working but evolved towards a system in which authority is decentralized, and their organization can be described as Self-managing, based on the definition of Lee & Edmondson (2017). This could also be the reason why Handelsbanken and Decathlon still have several management layers and Buurtzorg doesn’t have any managers at all. Important to note is that the role of the managers changed compared to the old organization, now the managers are more focused on supporting their employees. Buurtzorg is the only organization that is not (yet) active internationally, the others have offices and stores spread across the globe. Decathlon is the biggest of these three organizations with 70.000 employees, Buurtzorg and Handelsbanken both employ around 14.000 people. It might seem odd to conduct research at organizations that are not in the same sector, are not structured exactly the same and differ in size and location. However next to these difference there are also a lot of commonalities. 3.3.2 Commonalities As mentioned self-managing organizations can be rather heterogeneous and this appears to be so for the three organizations of my research as well, however there are not only differences. All of these organizations can be described as self-managing organizations in which authority is decentralized, and in which that is incorporated in a formal system that is operative for the entire organization. Next to the three requirements there are certain other aspects they share. All of these organizations have a strong customer focused approach, in which their employees receive the freedom and trust that enables them to help their customers as good as possible. This goes hand in hand with another shared aspect amongst the three, the focus on purpose instead of profit. All organizations are structured in groups of small teams, the number of members of each team differ but the structure is similar. The roles in the teams are not fixed and employees can decide or help decide the choices that need to be made.
  28. 28. 28 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity All organization share a certain openness, their employees feel free to share stories and be critical without having to worry about any consequences for saying what they think. This creates an atmosphere in which there is lots of room for emotions, personal problems, discussions and feedback. In all three organizations this is combined with a focus on personal growth of the employee. At all three organizations this has led to happy employees who are engaged and willing to work and do their best for the organization they work for and its customers. 3.3 The interviewees In the next chapter I will discuss the findings of this research. To present this in a way that one is able to analyze the data without ignoring the amount of diversity of the answers given by the different interviewees, appeared to be a challenge and required certain creative thinking from my side. To be able to illustrate the differences between the different organizations and within the several layers of an organization I have chosen to use a coding system for the interviewees. This code, a combination of colors for each organization; Buurtzorg, Handelsbanken and Decathlon, and letters that correspond with the first letter of each organization and numbers that correspond with the interviewees. In the table below you can see which interviewee stands for which code, and the function of that person. Code Function Buurtzorg interviewee 1 B1 Nurse Buurtzorg interviewee 2 B2 Nurse Buurtzorg interviewee 3 B3 Co-founder Buurtzorg Buurtzorg interviewee 4 B4 Coach Handelsbanken interviewee 1 H1 Office Director Handelsbanken interviewee 2 H2 Account Manager Handelsbanken interviewee 3 H3 Office Director Handelsbanken interviewee 4 H4 Account Manager Decathlon interviewee 1 D1 Sports Leader Decathlon interviewee 2 D2 Project Leader Decathlon interviewee 3 D3 Leader Paid Traffic Team Decathlon interviewee 4 D4 Country director
  29. 29. 29 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity Chapter 4 Findings In this chapter I will elaborate on the empirical data I gathered during the interviews. First I will focus on findings related to the sub question; How do employees interpret the concept of creativity in their organization? After that I will continue to finding answers for the main research question: “Do employees perceive a relationship between creativity and emotions in an organizational context, and how does this influence their creativity?” I will do this by elaborating on the answers given by the interviewees and adding observations, field notes and analysis. 4.1 How the interviewees define creativity To better understand if and how the interviewees perceive relationship between creativity and emotions in organizations it is necessary to gain a better understanding of how they defined creativity in the first place. 4.1.1 The interviewees The interviewees definition of creativity were rather diverse, to illustrate this I have identified four different themes. All interviewees used one or two of these themes in their definition of creativity in organizations. In the image below you can see that which Interviewee used which theme. The interviewees who used multiple themes are placed in between the two themes and are connected with an arrow. Figure 2 How the interviewees defined creativity
  30. 30. 30 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity Six out of twelve interviewees mentioned Problem solving in their definition of creativity, and stated that this was an essential aspect of creativity. They described creativity as “Finding new opportunities” (H1), “Solving problems with each other” (B2) and “To what amount can, and, do you want to show problem solving capabilities” (H4). With creativity as thinking outside the box most employees meant, changing perspectives and don’t focus on the existing processes. “I think you shouldn’t think too much in fixed rules” (B4), “Our framework is more open compared to other organizations. We can be free within the framework” (H2), “Think outside the box. Is the answer/process already written out, or can you think about it yourself? “(H3) Two employees of Decathlon defined creativity as being open for change, essential in this is that people are open for new ideas and share those with colleagues. “For me creativity is that you get the freedom to implement changes, and that people are open for those changes” (D2) “By sharing they enable the qualitative intelligence of the rest of the organization”(D4). The last theme I identified was employees who see creativity as being flexible. This concept was only used by employees of Buurtzorg to define creativity. They described it as a; “Combination of flexibility and being able to quickly react to events”(B3) and “Being flexible and work together in order to come up with creative solutions” (B1). 4.1.2 Analysis During the interviews I noticed that most employees struggled to define the concept of creativity, they paused a lot and it seemed as if they were searching for the ‘right’ answer. This led to lots of sentences being interrupted half way and starting a totally different sentence, which sometimes even was contradictive compared to the first sentence. After this opening question, that was specifically focused on defining creativity, people kept adding other aspects to their definition of creativity during the rest of the interview. Some of the interviewees also mentioned that it was a hard question to answer because they normally don’t think about those things. This gave me the feeling that talking about creativity is not something that is done often, that it isn’t something where employees focus on sometimes they are not even aware when in the midst of a creative process. Six out of twelve interviewees mentioned that ‘problem solving’ is part of their definition of creativity. However out of those six, none of the four Decathlon employees used this to define creativity. This could be the result of a social influence on the perspective of the employees. Unlike
  31. 31. 31 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity ‘problem solving’, the themes the Decathlon employees used to define creativity are more focused on the internal process or perspectives than the actual outcome of the creative process. The theme ‘Being open for change’ was only used by two employees of Decathlon. Those two employees both worked at Decathlon for over 10 years. This focus on the individual could be explained by the overall focus of Decathlon to stimulate personal growth within their organization. Within the organizations I did not find any significant trend between different (management-) layers or functions, when it comes to defining creativity. 4.2 Did the definition of creativity match with the interviewees perception? As mentioned in my theoretical framework, I used literature on the topic of creativity to distill a definition which I could use for my research. Using this definition I could research if there is a gap between how the interviewees perceive creativity in their organization and the theoretical perspective on creativity. This definition contains four different aspects. The first is combining two or more existing pieces of knowledge. The second is that creativity is a process through time. The third is that it is a process in which one is undergoing constant internal and external evaluation, and the fourth and last aspect is that something is only creative when the social context judges it as such. 4.2.1 The interviewees All the interviewees agreed with the definition and some elaborated on the knowledge aspect of creativity. “Yes you use the knowledge you have, or gained, during the time working in a team” (B4), “There is always a starting point from which you can look to improve certain things” (D2). Some of the interviewees mentioned that the social context did have influence on creativity, this influence was that it could potentially create a bigger source of knowledge for one to combine. “It happens often enough that you have contact with colleagues to share ideas, and then come up with how we can do this” (H2). Only one of the interviewees stated that he missed something in the definition, he added that; “Creativity is also a personal discovery, not just that it is something that others did for a long time, if for yourself the starting point or the way you do something changes then I find that creative as well” (D4).
  32. 32. 32 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity 4.2.2 Analysis The reason I wanted to test this definition is to find out if the literature matched how employees perceived the concept of creativity. Based on just asking them what they thought of the definition of creativity, the answer would be that it was a match. To increase the validity I also matched examples that were given during the interview to the four aspects of the definition of creativity I distilled from literature. To illustrate I quoted some of the examples given by the interviewees on each aspect of creativity in the image underneath. Based on the reaction of the interviewees and the examples that were given, I conclude that there is a match between the definition of creativity in literature and how the interviewees interpret creativity within their organization. Therefore this definition could be used for further research.
  33. 33. 33 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity 4.3 Factors that influence creativity according to the employees In order to get a better understanding of what factors influence creativity within organizations, I have gathered the positive and negative influences on creativity as they were mentioned during the interviewees. 4.3.1 Positive influence on creativity In the images below I have gathered the different factors that positively influence creativity according to the interviewees. On the left you can see a small description of the positive influence. In the center there are quotes, to illustrate how the interviewees described this positive influence. On the far right you can see which interviewee mentioned this positive influence during the interview. After each aspect that is mentioned I will write a short analysis. Freedom is mentioned by every interviewee as having a postive influence on their creativity. Therefore it is probable that this is an essential part of enabelings employees creativity in an organization. What should be noted is that freedom is a rather subjective term, employees can be free but if they don’t feel free they won’t act and do as if they were free and vice versa. Later on I will describe how the feeling of freedom can be influenced by the social context and emotions. Being engaged seems to have a motivating influence on creativity, employees who are engaged tend to put more effort in finding new solutions and not give up when a solution does not work the first try. The creative process takes time and effort, so if an employee takes more time and puts in more time and effort, this will automatically benefit the creative process. Only one of the employees of
  34. 34. 34 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity Decathlon mentioned that being engaged with the organization had a positive influence on creativity. However this does not have to mean that the others were not engaged with the organization. Sharing with colleagues can have a positive influence on creativity in multiple ways. The first is that it could help motivate an employee to keep working on the idea. The second is that it enlarges the employees available knowledge. By letting colleagues interact and combine with the idea of the first employee, it enables others to combine the idea with their own knowledge and experience in order to come up with new solutions, which the first employee could never think of because he did not have the required experience or knowledge at his disposal. The sharing of ideas seems essential in order to enable an organization to become more creative and enabling anyone’s knowledge. Be Inspired. Just as sharing with colleagues, this factor helps employees to broaden their knowledge and enables them to come up with new solutions. Be inspired was not mentioned by any of the interviewees from Handelsbanken. During the interviews, one of the Handelsbanken employees mentioned that there is a lack of sharing ideas with other parts of the organization of Handelsbanken. This lack of sharing, and therefore lack of being inspired by eachothers ideas can be an explanation for why only the employees of Handelsbanken did not mention the influence of inspiration on creativity.
  35. 35. 35 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity The positive influence of the social context is mentioned at all three organizations, at each location except for the Handelsbanken office ‘Alkmaar’. The positive influence of the social context on creativity was mostly by being supportive, motivating and enabling employees to creative. A social context that was open for new ideas also enabled employees to benefit from other positive influences of creativity such as sharing ideas with colleagues. Sufficient resources have a positive influence on creativity because it enables employees to make time for the creative process. Resources can help people gather the required knowledge or information in order to solve problems by facilitating workshops or paying for experiments to test certain hypothesis. Trust. This factor is an emportant aspect of a factor that was mentioned earlier; Freedom. For one to receive freedom, trust is needed, managers, organizations or colleagues need to trust their people. Trust is mentioned as an factor that influences creativity as well. Compared to freedom, it is
  36. 36. 36 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity interesting that not all interviewees of Handelsbanken mentioned trust, however this could be a result of the interacting relationship between freedom and trust. Perhaps they simply did not think of trust because for them it has become ‘normal’ that to receive freedom, one requires trust. External influence can be seen as having a motivating influence on creativity. In the examples given by the interviewees they describe that the external influence creates a problem that needs a quick reaction and therefore requires creativity. This helps create room for creativity and alowing employees to work together in order to solve the problem, giving them resources, a certain amount of pressure and freedom to come up with new ideas. Feeling mentally rested, based on literature, this has a postive influence on creativity because when the brain is rested and not stimulated to much, it has time to do tasks that were overdue, such as combining cognits in order to come up with new sollutions. The interviewees also experienced that feeling mentally rested helped them in their creative process, however they were not able to explain why and how this influence helped them be creative. They just knew it did.
  37. 37. 37 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity 4.3.2 Negative influences on creativity I have used the same method to describe the different factors that have a negative influence on the creative process according to the interviewees. To increase the validity of this research, I have chosen to only list the factors that were mentioned by the interviewees to have a negative influence. I did not automatically add the counterparts of the factors that positively influence creativity, because those were not specifically mentioned during the interviews. No room for ideas was mentioned by most interviewees to have a negative influence on creativity. When there was no room for ideas the interviewees got the feeling their ideas were not valued, not appreciated, and sometimes could even lead to angry managers or colleagues. No room for ideas seems to be the counterpart of freedom. This could also be the reason that the two employees who did not mention the negative influence of no room for ideas on creativity, they already named its positive counterpart and could potentially find it logical that when freedom is not there, it has a negative influence on creativity. Lack of trust was only mentioned by two interviewees in total to have a negative influence on creativity. These interviewees both worked for Buurtzorg and worked together in the past as well. An explanation for why only they mentioned this negative influence could be worked the same organization previously and had bad experiences with their manager who did not show any trust in her employees at all.
  38. 38. 38 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity Not sharing ideas is mentioned by both account managers of Handelsbanken, and none of the Office Directors. This could be because of the lack of idea sharing that is facilitated between the offices. The Office Directors have more meetings with different directors from other offices and will therefore share more of their ideas in a natural matter, without having to do as much effort as the Account Managers. This could be the reason why the Account Managers mentioned this aspect as having a negative influence. The interviewees from Buurtzorg who named Not sharing Ideas as well, both have a function in which they oversee different teams, which can allow them to see certain patterns and allows them to see how not sharing ideas between teams, negatively influences creativity within Buurtzorg. Stress. Some interviewees mentioned that experiencing stress could influence creativity positively and negatively, however all agreed that too much stress has only negative influence on the creative outcome. What is interesting as well is that only one employee of Buurtzorg mentioned stress, and he was the only one who also worked for other organizations. The other interviewees of Buurtzorg did not experience stress to be a limiting factor for creativity, or did not mention it during the interviews. I will elaborate on this negative factor further on in this chapter.
  39. 39. 39 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity Negativity was mentioned by 5 out of 12 employees spread over all three organizations. Negativity works as a demotivating factor, it drains energy and makes employees want to stop their work on the current project. They are less open for new insights, and their willingness to share ideas drops. Distractions. The interviewees who mentioned this factor to have negative influence on creativity, all had a function in which customers could walk in and start asking questions, distract them in other ways, or had to do with patients that require acute care. This negatively influences the creative process because it distracts the brain from the tasks it is supposed to do in order to make new connections and combinations. 4.4 What influences creativity more; Characteristics or external factors? After finding out which factors, according to the interviewees, influenced the creative process, I intended to find what they perceive to have more influence on their creativity. Characteristics or External influence. 4.4.1 The interviewees In the image below the answers given by the interviewees can be found.
  40. 40. 40 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity As you can see only one interviewee stated that creativity is being influenced more by external influence than by characteristics. Five chose for a 50/50 mix, one for a 60/40, three found that characteristics were a bigger influence on creativity. Two interviewees did not answer this question. H3 described his choice in a way that matched the answers of the interviewees who chose for characteristics; “Creativity is something you can do every day. It is something that should be within your skillset. That you have the skills to see a problem from multiple perspectives. Creativity has to do with skills.” One of the interviewees who chose for the mix between characteristics and external influence, interviewee D3’s answer to this question was; “Are characteristics not formed by external influence? I used to really believe in personal competence and personal values. But if look at myself, I also see that I brought a lot of thing with me from my parents, genetically.” This perfectly points out the argumentation of the other interviewees who chose for the mix as well. They felt as if creativity is something that is part of you but that external influences such as social context, inspiration or external motivators can both enable and disable the creativity of a person. Interviewee H1 is the only one who stated that external factors had more influence on creativity. “External factors force you to be creative. For example the financial crisis, the whole world was on fire, and we were forced to look at our processes and find new ways to be able to continue. So I do think external influences have the most influence on creativity.” With this he highlights the way external factors can be a motivator for people to become creative. 4.4.2 Analysis When comparing the answers given to this question with the factors that influence creativity, there seems to be a discrepancy. Even the interviewees who stated that characteristics have more influence on creativity, mostly mentioned external factors as influencers of creativity. This discrepancy between how the employees perceive their creativity and how they thought it was influenced, was clearly visible during the interviews. This suggests that most interviewees are not consciously aware of the fact that the factors they mentioned to have positive or negative influence on creativity are mostly external; (not) sharing ideas, supporting social context, sufficient resources, be inspired, be trusted, have (no) freedom, being engaged, distractions, negativity from others. This could further mean that employees are not always consciously aware that external and social influences have influence on their creativity. When this awareness is lacking, employees are not open for the positive way this influence could help their creativity, and they will not be able to influence
  41. 41. 41 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity those external influences in a way that it benefits their creativity, and potentially ignore positive external influences. 4.5 Creativity and emotions in organizations 4.5.1 Introduction After gaining more insight in what the interviewees defined as creativity within organizations and what factors have influence on this, it is time to focus on the main question of this research, “Do employees perceive a relationship between creativity and emotions in an organizational context, and how does this influence their creativity?” To do so I have asked the interviewees several questions about their emotions. All interviewees stated that they work in an organization in where there is enough room to share and show emotions, especially compared to some of the organizations they worked prior to their current organization. In this paragraph I have gathered the data that focuses on the relationship between creativity and emotions in organizations. By doing so I intend to find out if and how the relationship between creativity and emotions in organizations is perceived and how this influences creativity. 4.5.2 Do the interviewees perceive a relationship between emotions and creativity? During the interviews I attempted to find out if the interviewees perceived a relationship between emotions and creativity. Most interviewees already gave examples of emotions that influence their creativity before I asked about the relationship at all. In the image below, you can find the details of this. As can be seen in the image above, all interviewees perceive a relationship between creativity and emotions. Only two did not mention that emotions influenced their creativity by themselves, nevertheless, when asked they both stated that they also perceive a relationship between the two.
  42. 42. 42 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity When looking at the earlier mentioned positive and negative influences the relationship between emotion and creativity becomes even clearer. In the image below I’ve rearranged the factors the interviewees described to have influence on the creative process. In the far right column, I listed other emotions that are directly related to emotions according to the interviewees. The factors that have been made bold, have a direct link with emotions. The factors that are made bold and cursive, are also influenced by emotions, however this happens in a more indirect way; via the influence of the social context. I did not find any direct or indirect links to emotions for the other aspects. I will elaborate on how the direct and indirect relationship between creativity and emotions influence the process further on. 4.5.3 The direct relationship between emotions and creativity The direct relationship between creativity was something that was perceived by all interviewees. They were aware of this relationship and even mentioned certain emotions as influencing factors. I have written down which emotions they mentioned and how these emotions influence the creative process. Trust. According to the interviewees the feeling of being trusted, positively influences creativity. They reason that it makes them feel more secure about the choices they make. It helps them feel supported, which helps them feel less scared to make mistakes. They feel as if they can fail without losing their jobs or getting into trouble. Making the employees willing to share ideas. On the other hand, when employees experience a lack of trust, their insecurity can be stimulated. This can result in employees not willing or daring to share ideas anymore, which could negatively influence the creativity for the whole organization. Stress. According to the interviewees, stress can have a positive and a negative influence on creativity. The positive effect comes from giving pressure and creating a necessity for the employee
  43. 43. 43 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity to trigger its creativity; Interviewee B3 explained how a certain amount of pressure helps him become more creative: “I need some form of stress to be motivated to be creative. If there is no deadline I'd do absolutely nothing.” A deadline and the stress this causes, seems to act as a motivator to trigger someone to focus on finding new solutions. Nevertheless most interviewees described stress as having a negative effect on their creativity. This has to do how stress is perceived. The interviewees mentioned that when they felt stressed, they felt as if they have less room or time to think of new solutions, or the stress increases because they get the feeling they can’t make any mistakes. Next to that, stress could increase fear which increases stress further. Employees become afraid to take time to work out their ideas, or are afraid of the consequences if they share their ideas with the people around them, or perhaps the amount of stress is so high they just think about ‘surviving’ and can’t take the time to reflect on their ideas in a critical matter. Remember Wallas’s (Sadler-Smith, 2015) theory on creativity in which he describes the incubation stage as the stage in which the brain is working relentlessly to form new combinations between cognits. According to Amabile, Barsade, Mueller & Staw (2005), too much stress can interfere with this process because it reduces awareness for those innovative new combinations In his interview interviewee D3 gave another example of how stress influenced his creativity; “Yes, I think stress can lead to making safer choices. If I feel a lot of pressure then I get a certain negative energy and if you want to make the right choice because you're afraid of a negative review or something, and then you end up making you decision based on short-term success, instead of long- term.” What I found really interesting is the fact that some interviewees experienced less stress compared to their old jobs, while there were certain factors which presumably raised stress. Those employees had more responsibility, worked more hours and could be called after business hours. Nevertheless they did not seem to perceive their situation as stressful, and therefore the negative effect of stress on creativity did not occur. Somehow the social construct of what causes stress and how stress is experienced changed for these employees. Feeling mentally rested. Again, this point was mentioned by almost all of the interviewees. The interviewees mentioned that they had the best ideas while working out, while relaxing, while sleeping or during a vacation, however none of the interviewees could find a specific reason for why this helped them to be creative and come up with ideas. Adding Wallas’ four staged model on the creative process, it seems to be as if feeling mentally rested benefits the incubation of the idea. The
  44. 44. 44 Master thesis Bram van der Lecq; Perceiving creativity stage in which cognits are combined and associative trains are formed. (Lubart, 2001; Sadler-Smith, 2015; Sawyer, 2003; Wallas, 1926). Satisfaction. According to the interviewees, the relationship between satisfaction and creativity is one that becomes clear after the creative process, when the problem, or the new idea emerged. Interviewee B1 demonstrated how she experienced the feeling of solving the problem, “ When you solve a problem or find the solution than (sighs out loud, while make a gesture that suggests she lets something go).” This reaction shows how the event of being creative and solving a problem influences a person’s emotional state. Sadness. This emotion seems to work as a motivator for solving the problem. Interviewees B1 and B2 stated that they sometimes felt sad during their work Interviewee B1: “Sad because we don't have enough personnel, and then people get sick. And you think my god, I worked all day who is going to do the evening shift" Interviewee B2 adds: "But okay, than we are creative as well, I can say ok, I’ll take the first four, you take the middle and somebody else takes the last.” Their sadness functioned as a motivator to solve the problem that is making them sad. This could potentially stimulate them to come up with more creative solutions, and trigger them to look at the problem from different perspectives and sharing ideas. Feeling insecure. Feeling insecure is something that especially limits the social aspect of creativity. Interviewee B4 explained how she noticed feeling insecure influences creativity; “It can be, that if you work in a team and you’re insecure, and the team is very dominant, that can be negative. The dominant people can overshadow the less dominant people. Leaving them scared to share ideas.” Because of this lack of sharing ideas, employees will not be inspired by each other and the insecure employee will not dare to share his possibly brilliant solution for the problem. 4.5.4 The indirect relationship between emotions and creativity within organizations The indirect relationship between emotions and creativity is something that is harder to identify, and required more interpretation from my side during the analysis of the data. During the interviews I asked the interviewees if they thought emotions could indirectly influence creativity, this question turned out to be not effective, or too complex, this resulted in interviewees misinterpreting the question. Nevertheless the interviewees did gave examples of how emotions indirectly influenced the creative process through the social context. In my analysis I connect those examples to the emotion that indirectly relates to creativity.