Author(s), Title and Publication
Omillion-Hodges, L. M. & Ackerman, C.D. (2018). From the technical know-how to the free flow of ideas: Exploring the effects of leader, peer, and team communication on employee creativity. Communication Quarterly, 66 (1), 38-57. DOI: 10.1080/01463373.2017.1325385

Creativity in the workplace is often studied and extant scholarship has shown that creativity is affected by workplace contexts, social encounters, and professional interactions with leaders and peers, with much focus on workplace culture and the member-leader relationship. Largely omitted from this research however, is scholarship that contemplates how leader, peer, and team communication relationships influence innovation. In effort to close this research gap, the authors of this study performed in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 30 full-time working adults employed in the video game industry. Interviews examined how the leader, peer, and team interactions impact employee creativity.

The findings revealed four themes, namely, coaching, structure, support, and trust, that contribute to greater understanding of how workplace relationships can influence employee creativity. First, creativity coaches, which can be, but often are not, an employee’s leader, were distinguished as catalysts for creativity due to seniority, expertise, and helpful guidance. Structure in the form of communication behavior likewise influenced employees’ creative output. Employees reported structured communication from leadership, access to organizational resources, collaboration, stimulation, peer, and team interactions, and explicit deadlines positively influenced the inherently unstructured creative process. Support through both formal and informal communication was found to impact creative outcomes at work. Employees noted having the latitude to speak informally with peers during work hours facilitated their creativity. Formal meetings and idea-sharing, including the sharing of failures and successes contributed to creative growth and development. Finally, trust and support from the organization was not only important, but a by-product of the overall environment and significantly influenced employees’ willingness to try new ideas, and ultimately be creative.

Implications for Practice
Organizations should (1) implement communication strategies that encourage the sharing of the technical know-how to the free-flow of ideas; such as round table discussions and brief standup idea-sharing meetings, (2) empower leaders and peers at all levels with creative and communicative freedom, so everyone in the organization can provide support and trust as catalysts for creativity, and (3) focus on creating quality relationships through meaningful, substantive communications and information exchanges to drive employee creativity and satisfaction.

Location of Article
This article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article)

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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