Home » B822:Creativity, Innovation and Change » Organisational conditions and levels of creativity: notes on Ekvall

Organisational conditions and levels of creativity: notes on Ekvall

QQ1 Do some organisational characteristics promote lower, more adaptive, creative acts but impede more radical creativity?

QQ2 Do some conditions that stimulate the radical block block the adaptive kind of creative acts?

ANS: Yes, but both have their place, as competitors or as contributors in in a production process. Ekvall did his research in an unnamed chemical business with four different factories and was able to compare two with similar activities but differing management processes. I liken it to the ICI Dulux plant (my imagineering), where the successful ‘adaptive’ factory produces White Paints, while the factory where ‘free creatives’ are at ‘play’ this is where buttermilk with pixie dust is made and has found a market.

Edited extract from Creativity and Innovation Management 6 (4), 195-205 (1997)

‘As risk taking and anxiety are ingredients of creative acts, culture elements that make risk taking and failure less threatening and dangerous are promoting of creative behaviour, whereas on situations where creative Initiatives are met with suspicion, defensiveness and aggression, the fear of failure, becomes strong and holds creativity back.’

However, having worked for a period in a highly ‘creative’ environment, there can be too much play, variety and thinking. There has to be an interplay, especially where clients, including stakeholders along the supply chain, are serviced. Advertising agencies have structures that contain the ‘creatives’ in the creative department, their revolutionary and disruptive antics kept well away from ‘planing’ or ‘account handling’, with the accountants potentially well clear in a different building or city.

‘A rational systematic, achievement-orientated culture, an administrative functioning style, that stresses systems, procedures, goals’.

This sounds like an adaptive organisation. It is worthy. Yet, catching a TV piece on MacLaren cars , I was struct how by the impression of a Renaissance studio putting out a series of similar masterpieces. There was creativity, of course, but also a system. The transition to far greater production volumes with vastly tighter turnaround times at each stage and station could be it’s undoing. What happens when the painters in the studio go from working on a masterpiece with a sense of ownership of each one, to ‘painting by numbers’ in order to fill order books?


Using the ‘creative climate questionnaire’ CCQ
Ekvall, 1991 and 1996

Conflicts are negative to creativity, debates positive.

Ekvall postulates (p141) if an organisation working with incremental and adaptive creativity stresses risk taking and freedom? Highly creative people (if there are any at all) with an ’innovative style’ Kirton (1987) will be stimulated and respond by presenting more radical ideas and problem solutions than before’. The ’adoptors’, will be uneasy and lose energy and motivation to solve problems.

High scores may block the radical creativity and innovation but promote the adaptive. P141

The study at the chemical company provides an indication that strict and clear structures, policies and rules are hindrances to higher level, innovative creativity and that more loose, vague and variable structures are prerequisites for such radical creative acts to be prevalent in the organisation.

All para from p141 to p142


Kirton (1987) the innovator is the person who challenges rules, dislikes routine work and takes control in unstructured situations.


For more read chapter 10 ‘Organizational Conditions and Levels of Creativity’ (1997) by Goran Ekvall pp135-145 in Henry, (2006) Creative Management and Development (3rd Ed.)

Ekvall, G. (1997) Edited extract from ‘Creativity and Innovation Management’, 6(4), 195-205

Kirton , M,J (1987) ’Adaptors and Innovators. Cognitive Style and Personality’. IN S.G. Isaksen (Ed.), Frontiers of Creativity Research, Buffalo: Bearly Ltd.

1 Comment

  1. Hi,

    I found the post very cryptic. I guess it must be something for a closed user group. But having said that, I believe the core quality for creativity and innovation is an ” ownership ” attitude and the intention to move out of our comfort zone. To me , there is never a dearth of creative and innovative energies in any individual. It always boils down to his attitude and mindset.



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