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The Climate for Creativity and Innovation

Imagine the industrial organisation is represented by a tree. The branch network could mirror the hierarchy of an organisation with People becoming the leaves.

climate for innovation

Let's imagine that the roots of the tree represent the culture of the organisation. They go deep. They hold everything in place. The values, beliefs and corporate assumptions are the roots. Without these the organisation has no foundations and will become unstable and topple.

The second factor that affects the 'well being or life of our organisational tree is the climate. Water in the form of rain and light from the sun sustains our tree. The seasons interact. The climate obviously has an impact on how much our tree can thrive. Reduce the light or water and it begins to shrivel.

Climate represents the behaviour, attitudes and feelings of the organisation which in turn affect its operational processes (or life) in terms of communications, problem solving, decision making and how it learns. Not all trees are the same. Each has a different root system and each reacts to the local climate in differing ways.

innovation quoteThe major barrier to entrepreneurial innovations within the modern corporate framework is the organisational hierarchy itself.. The mind-set hierarchical hang-up is manifested by the inertia of the managers in power to neglect and smoother the entrepreneur innovation quote  Mueller
The concept of organisational climate was first developed by Lewin, Lippitt and White (1939). Our objective here is to identify and consider those climatic factors that influence organisational creativity.

Innovation Climate Dimensions

Goran Ekvall, professor emeritus of organisational psychology at the University of Lund, Sweden spent many years looking at the organisational climatic dimensions which affects organisational creativity.

He identified 10 dimensions (detail):

  1. Challenge (How challenged, emotionally involved,and committed are employees to the work )
  2. Freedom (How free is the staff to decide how to do their job?)
  3. Idea time (Do employees have time to think things through before having to act?)
  4. Dynamism the eventfulness of life in the organisation
  5. Idea support Are there resources to give new ideas a try?)
  6. Trust and openness (Do people feel safe speaking their minds and offering different points of view?)
  7. Playfulness and humor (How relaxed is the workplace-is it okay to have fun. )
  8. Conflicts (To what degree do people engage in interpersonal conflict or 'warfare?")
  9. Debates (To what degree do people engage in lively debates about the issues')
  10. Risk-taking (Is it okay to fail?)

The dimensions can be grouped into three areas of Resources, Motivation, and Exploration as follows:

Resources: Idea Time; Idea Support; Challenge and Involvement Personal

Motivation: Trust and Openness: Playfulness and Humor; Absence of Interpersonal Conflicts

Exploration: Risk-taking; Debates About the Issues; Freedom

Ekvall's Studies in 70's & 80's

climateCreativity is not something that can be 'turned on' at will, but rather by the result of long term exposure to an encouraging climate" culture  D. Turnipseed
Ekval took a representative sample of 27 different organisations and divided them into Innovative(8), Stagnated(4) and Average(15) industries.

Innovative refers to the ability to develop new products and services quickly, get to market more efficiently and have products with high commercial success. stagnated refers to an inability to effectively handle newness and have products which were not as successful.

Each organisation was independently scored for organisational climate using a 50 item questionnaire named the Creative Climate Questionnaire (CCQ) which looked at the ten dimensions above.

Respondents were addressed as an observer of the life of an organisation. There is no 'I' so the respondent should report on common behaviour not opinions. Since different observers will rate the same things differently a mean score was used to cancel this out.

There was no leadership dimension. Ekvall was able to correlate a relationship between the questionnaire and the ability of an organisation to innovate as shown below.

goran ekvall creative climate It is fairly obvious that the Innovative group scored highest on all dimensions of climate except conflict and the stagnated group scored lowest except conflict. These results correlate closely with studies undertaken in the US.

Several dimensions affect more than just creativity and Innovation. Challenge, Freedom, Trust, Playfulness and low Conflicts can also influence Productivity and Quality. The optimal level will vary according to the desired outcome. Too much Freedom can interfere with Productivity.

Risktaking, Dynamism freedom and debates make the crucial difference between climate that supports radical innovation and one that supports incremental improvements.

Risktaking shows up as the biggest difference between innovative and stagnated companies.

Creative Climate Questionnaire Details

innovation cultureOrganisations are designed to administer, maintain and protect what already exists; creative thinkers are designed to bring into existence that which has never been before" creative climate  Marsha Sinetar
Challenge and Involvement
The degree to which people are involved in daily operations and long term goals. The climate has a dynamic, electric and inspiring quality. People find meaning in their work and are intrinsically motivated to invest much energy. The opposite is a feeling of alienation , indifference, apathy and lack of interest.

Most people here strive to do a good job

Independence in behaviour. Autonomy to define much of work. Taking initiative. Opposite - strict guidelines and roles. Work carried out in prescribed ways with little room to redefine their tasks.

People here make choices about their own work.

Trust & Openness
Emotional safety in relationships. When a level of trust, individuals can be open and frank with each other.. Can count for personal support. Have respect. Opposite is suspicion, closely guarded, cannot communicate openly.
People here do not steal each others ideas.

Idea Time
Amount of time can use and do use for elaborating ideas. Possibilities exist to discuss and test impulses that are not planned or included in task assignment. Slack.
Opposite - every minute booked. Time pressures make thinking outside instructions and planned routines impossible.

One has the opportunity to stop work here in order to test new ideas

Playfulness and Humour
Spontaneity and ease displayed in the workplace. Relaxed atmosphere where jokes and laughter occur often. Fun at work. Easy going.

Opposite is seriousness, stiff and gloomy atmosphere. Laughter is inproper

People here have a sense of humour.

Personal & emotional tension. Conflict high. Interpersonal warfare. Plots, traps, power struggles. Slander, gossip.

Opposite is more mature, deal effectively with diversity.

There is a great deal of personal tension here

Idea Support
The ways new ideas are treated - attentive, listened to, encouraged. Constructive & positive atmosphere.
Opposite automatic 'no' prevailing, suggestions refuted by counter argument. Fault finding usual style.

People here receive support and encouragement when presenting new ideas.

Discussion of opposing opinions and sharing diversity of perspectives.

Opposite - follow authoritarian patterns without questioning. Groupthink.

Many different points of view are shared here during discussion.

Risk Taking Tolerance of uncertainty and ambiguity in workplace. Bold new initiatives taken when outcomes unknown. Take a gamble, out on a limb.

Opposite is cautious, hesitant mentality. Sleep on it, safe side. Committees to cover themselves before making a decision.

People here feel as though they can take bold action even if the outcome is unclear

CCQ refinements into CIQ, SOQ and ICQ

Gorans' work has been refined and validated in the USA by Scott Isaksen (Center for Creative studies, State University of New York-Buffalo).

In 1991, the Climate for Innovation Questionnaire (CIQ) with sixty items across 10 dimensions was created followed in 1995 by the Situational Outlook For Creativity and Change Survey (SOCCS) Questionnaire. It's most recent label is the Situational Outlook Questionnaire (SOQ)

In the UK, Ekvall's CCQ has been refined as the Innovation Climate Questionnaire (ICQ) by adding four additional scales: stress, shared view, pay recognition, and work recognition, and modifying two other scales : idea-proliferation and positive relationships. The ICQ incorporates thirteen scales: 'commitment', 'freedom', 'idea-support', 'positive relationships', 'dynamism', 'playfulness', 'idea-proliferation', 'stress', 'risk-taking', 'idea-time', 'shared view', 'pay recognition', and 'work recognition'. With the exception of 'stress', higher scores on each scale relate to more favourable organisational outcomes, including lower turnover intention, increased job satisfaction and greater organisational commitment. Over 1500 respondents from U.K. and other European organisations have completed the ICQ, which is now in its third revision.

Another instrument is KEYS: Assessing the Climate for Creativity

This approach assesses perceived stimulants and obstacles to creativity in the organisational work environment. The key dimensions of creativity are encouragement of creativity (organisational, supervisory and work group encouragement), autonomy / freedom, resources, pressures, and organisational impediments to creativity.

KEYS was developed by Teresa Amabile, at Harvard University (see below).

ICQIncrementalism is Innovation's worst enemy SOQ  N. Negroponte


Developed for Center for Creative Leadership by Teresa Amabile, KEYS is a survey instrument which assesses those aspects of the work environment which stimulates or inhibits creativity. It does not consider all possible dimensions of the work environment but targets those which significantly influence creativity.

It is a 78-item paper-and-pencil survey each describing a characteristic of the work environment and scored on a numerical scale to rate the degree to which that characteristic describes the current work environment. Theses item ratings form 8 environment scales (6 stimulants and 2 obstacles to creativity) and 2 outcome scales (creativity and productivity in the work).

Stimulants to Creativity
Organizational Encouragement of creativity (15 items):

  • fair, constructive judgment of ideas
  • reward and recognition
  • mechanisms for developing new ideas
  • shared vision

Supervisory Encouragement of Creativity (11 items):

Work Group Supports (8 items):

  • communicate
  • openness to new ideas
  • constructive challenge
  • trust

Freedom (4 items):

  • what work to do
  • how to do it
  • control over one's work.

Sufficient Resources (6 items):

  • people
  • funds
  • facilities
  • information.

Challenging Work (5 items):

Obstacles to Creativity

Organizational Impediments (12 items):

  • internal political
  • criticism of new ideas
  • destructive internal competition
  • risk avoidance
  • overemphasis on the status quo.

Workload Pressure (5 items):

  • unrealistic expectations for productivity