Sub-theme 47: From Designing Organizational Creativity to Creativity for Organizational Design

Alexander Styhre
University of Gothenburg, Sweden
Tomi J. Kallio
Turku School of Economics at the University of Turku, Finland
Barbara Imperatori
Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan, Italy

Call for Papers


During the last years organizational creativity has been increasingly studied by scholars, as traditional, individual-oriented perspectives of creativity have been found rather limited. While many scholars question whether organizational creativity can even be managed as such, most agree that promoting organizational creativity is above all facilitating and designing organizations favorable to creativity and innovation (Amabile, 1988).

The Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary suggests that "design is the way in which something has been planned and made, including what it looks like and how well it works". In this sense design has historically worked as a powerful metaphor within organizational studies for numerous different themes ranging from organizational design to strategy design, and further to office space design. More recently, as new themes such as the art of management have emerged, many management and organizational scholars have started to emphasize the artistic, aesthetic and creative aspects of design (cf. Barry & Rerup, 2006). This aspect of design is defined by the Collins Cobuild Dictionary as "the process and art of creating, planning, and making detailed drawings of something". Using creativity in the design processes means, for instance, redefining organizational solutions including 'mindless' activities (Elsbach & Hargadon, 2006) or aesthetical values such as harmony of the physical structure and inspiring setting (McCoy, 2005).

Designing organizational creativity is, of course, crucial for the creative industries, such as fashion, design and entertainment where originality and novelty are central features. In fact, in the organization studies literature we often see examples of creative individuals boosting group creativity, and, vice versa, creative environments influencing individual creativity; take the examples of El Bulli (cf. Svejenova et al., 2007) and IDEO (cf. Kelly & Littman, 2001), for instance. However, organizational creativity is becoming increasingly relevant also in the traditional industries; think, for instance, Ferrari (cf. Morse, 2006), Google, and Alessi (cf. Rindova et al., 2009).

The participants of this sub-theme are urged to critically challenge the traditional "it either works or doesn't work' dualisms and 'one size fits for all' doctrines to organizational creativity as well as to reflectively ask the ultimate question; what is organizational creativity? How does it originate and develop in different organizational contexts? How can organizational design promote and support it? What can be the role of creativity in organizational design?

Contributors of the sub-theme are encouraged to discuss alternative perspectives of designing organizational creativity and using creativity to sustain organizational design. Rigorous conceptual and empirical research within organizational settings is called for. Papers submitted to the sub-theme may include, but are not restricted to, the following themes:

  • What are the components and features of organizational creativity?
  • Does it make sense to identify different types of organizational creativity for different organizational contexts?
  • How to design organizational creativity?
  • How to evaluate and measure creative performance in organizations; can organizational creativity be controlled?
  • Do cultural traits (e.g. individualism vs. collectivism) influence the development and the ways of managing organizational creativity?
  • Are there culturally embedded meanings and styles of organizational creativity and its development, and, on the opposite, what is the role of globalization in organizational creativity?
  • Are there neglected functions (e.g. accounting and shop-floor level production) within organizational creativity discourse?
  • Is there such thing as the art of organizational creativity?
  • How to design organizational space for creativity?
  • Is creativity useful in any kind of organization?




Amabile, T.M. (1988): "A model of creativity and innovation in organizations." In: B.M. Staw & L.L. Cummings (eds.): Research in Organizational Behavior, Vol. 10. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 123–167
Barry, D. & C. Rerup (2006): "Going Mobile: Aesthetic Design Considerations from Calder and the Constructivists." Organization Science, 17 (2), 262–276
Elsbach, K.D. & A.B. Hargadon (2006): "Enhancing creativity through 'mindless' work: A framework of workday design." Organization Science, 17 (4), 470–483
Kelly, T. & J. Littman (2001): The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm. New York: Currency Books
McCoy, J.M. (2005): "Linking the Physical Work Environment to Creative Context." Journal of Creative Behavior, 39 (3), 169–191
Morse, G. (2006): "Sparkling Creativity at Ferrari." Harvard Business Review, 4, 23
Rindova, V., D. Barry & D.J. Ketchen (2009): "Introduction to Special Topic Forum: Entrepreneuring as emancipation." Academy of Management Review, 34 (3), 477–491
Svejenova, S., C. Mazza & M. Planellas (2007): "Cooking up change in haute cuisine: Ferran Adrià as an institutional entrepreneur." Journal of Organizational Behavior, 28 (5), 539–561


Alexander Styhre Alexander Styhre is Professor and chair of Organization Theory and Management, Dept. of Business Administration, School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg. His work has appeared in Journal of Management Studies, Organization Studies, Human Relations, Organization, and elsewhere. Styhre is author, co-author, and co-editor of fifteen books including the most recent Visual Culture in Organizations (Routledge 2010).
Tomi J. Kallio Professor of Management and Organization at Turku School of Economics at the University of Turku, Finland. His research interests include organizational creativity, creative working approach, responsible business, and several topics related organization theory, such as change, structure, physical space and bureaucracy. He has published in interdisciplinary journals such as Journal of Business Ethics, Culture & Organization, Management & Organizational History, and Organization & Environment.
Barbara Imperatori Associate Professor of Organization Design and Organizational Behaviour, Dept. of Economics & Business Administration, Catholic University. Her research interests are collective creativity; SHRM; employment relationships and new employment arrangements; organizational wellbeing and social enterprises. Her contributions have been published in international and national journals and books.