Creativity at work a key to social bonds between employees

Research from the University of Maryland shows that giving employees creative tasks to work on together creates stronger relationship ties.
By: | November 10, 2023

Creativity at work does not just stay within problem solving at work. Organisations can benefit from utilising creativity in facilitating positive social relationships amongst colleagues.

This was the theory that had two professors from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland were curious about, wanting to know if creativity could also bring colleagues closer together.

Dr Trevor A. Foulk, Associate Professor of Management and Organisation and Dr Vijaya Venkataramani, Dean’s Professor of Leadership and Innovation, conducted a series of experiments to whether being in a creative mindset could facilitate positive social experiences, detailing the research in an article for Harvard Business Review. The research yielded key findings that revealed that creativity helped colleagues positively in the workplace, especially in a social context.

Both researchers found that the key differentiator on how the effects of creativity might play out was how supportive and psychologically safe the environment was, developing close relationships towards each other when they were not penalised for thinking differently. Employees in creative mindset made employees recollect and imagine positive and supportive creative interactions with their colleagues. However, employees in less supportive environments saw weaker social closeness because these employees tended to recall more negative, less supportive relationships.

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The findings from the research saw both researchers give recommendations to leaders in organisations that highlight the best of creativity and social connection, calling for leaders to acknowledge the power of creativity has on building social bonds; the importance of creating safe, supportive environments to cultivate more creative sharing solutions; and how creative cultivation would help to reduce organisational rudeness between colleagues, as well as perceived behavioural slights against each other. “To help organisations and teams better hone their creative processes, future research should explore in more detail when creativity leads to the positive consequences verses the more negative consequences,” wrote Drs Foulk and Venkataramani.