INSTANT MBA: 3 Things That Spark Creativity

Teresa Amabile

Today’s advice comes from Teresa Amabile, professor at Harvard Business School, via LinkedIn:

“Managers need to give people some autonomy in what they’re doing … Google, I think, has a 20% time rule. This is essentially protecting time for people to pursue projects that are really interesting to them … Some of the most creative ideas come out of that time where people feel that they have autonomy as long as they have a clear sense of what they’re trying to accomplish.”

Amabile says that creativity cannot exist without autonomy, resources and time. Each part of the creativity trifecta relies on the other, and managers and supervisors hold the key to providing those parts to their employees. They just have to be willing and patient.

Amabile says that managers should provide resources to subordinates in order to spark creativity. If they don’t, people will spend more time finding the resources they need instead of focusing on the real issue. Time is another tool that managers can give their employees to allow for better creativity.

“We’ve learned that many managers believe that they can stimulate creativity by putting people under very tight deadlines. That’s a myth. In fact, across the board in general, people are more creative when they have a little bit of time to explore a problem, reflect on what they’re doing, gather new information, and to talk to people who might have different perspectives, which can be enormously useful.”

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