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The Multifaceted Outcomes of Time Pressure on Creativity

An Exploratory Study

©2009 Bachelorarbeit 27 Seiten


This research paper sets out the dissension between the corporate world and the scientific world concerning the versatile impingements of time pressure on creativity. On the one hand, the corporate world is widely assuming that time pressure is beneficial to creativity. On the other hand, literature reveals that creativity is disheartened by time pressure. Based upon an examination of existing literature and an exploratory study within international organizations, an interesting outcome arose. The viewpoints from both parties, the corporate world and the research world, need to be nuanced. It is interval pressure that encourages organizational creativity the most.



1.1 Purpose of the study

2.1 Theoretical background of organizational creativity
2.2 Measuring creativity and innovation
2.3 Time pressure and creativity

3.1 Research Methods
3.2 Limitations

4.1 Interview with Accenture
4.2 Interview with Dinana Fashion BV.
4.3 Interview with Ernst & Young
4.4 Interview with Falco BV
4.5 Interview with Vodafone





B.1 Accenture
B.2 Dinana Fashion BV.
B.3 Ernst & Young
B.4 Falco BV
B.5 Vodafone



Corporate sustainability is gaining relevance in the ever challenging and complex environment. In order for organizations to assure continuity, competitive advantage needs to be strived for. What lies bedrock to competitive advantage is creativity and innovation. Despite the fact that most organizations conduct an inadequate ‘business as usual’ management style resulting from their resistance to change, innovation is a necessity in the continuously increasing adversity of markets (Samli, 2007). Furthermore, Florida (2002) writes in his book that creativity belongs to the fundaments of competitive advantage and is therefore of major importance nowadays. An important aspect that lies between creativity and corporate sustainability is the process of value creation. Value is being created when creativity and innovation are brought into practice. However, the practical issues concerning creativity are not covered in this paper.

Even though some researchers point out that creativity and innovation do not comprise the same (Von Stamm, 2005) (Heye, 2006), this research paper will use these two expressions, if possible, interchangeably.

Creativity is the ability to produce work that is both novel (i.e. original and unexpected) and appropriate (Sternberg, 1988). In addition, creativity could be defined as an intellectual activity, with particular reference to arts and to a lesser degree the sciences and the creation of concepts (Deleuze, 1994). In the literature, researchers maintain different viewpoints and definitions concerning creativity. Since creativity is defined in several manners, there is not one best definition. Nevertheless, there is an important distinction to be made between two forms of creativity. On the one hand, creativity is placed in a context where there is the focus on arts. Powel (2008) describes this as creativity in its purest form. On the other hand, creativity is utilized as an instrument to meet the requirements of a client or consumer (Powel, 2008). In other words, creativity can have a product focus. In this research paper, the main focus will be on the latter in which creativity is placed in an organizational/ business related context.

‘People come up with best ideas when time is tight’ (Amabile, 2002). This is what many business executives assume. In the corporate world, it is widely assumed that time pressure leads to a higher level of creativity and value creation. However, others state that creative ideas take time (Andrews, 1996). For many people, time pressure has become a fact of life due to the trend of companies moving towards a point of ‘corporate anorexia’, where many management cutbacks take place making managers more busy, which results in more frequent burn outs, overworked and overburdened managers (Hadley, 2002) (Andrews, 1996). Accordingly, the assumption that more pressure leads to more creativity is highly questionable. Coming up with creative practical ideas that lead to both internal and external value creation under high pressure is something that takes place everyday in the corporate world.

This research paper has the intent to increase awareness whether or not the current pressured situation fosters creativity and whether it is possible to state in general that time pressure positively influences creativity.

Hence, this study endeavours to answer the main research question which is as follows:

‘In which way is organizational creativity affected by time pressure under the current economic conditions?’

1.1 Purpose of the study

This study aims at contributing and initiating new insights into the academic field of organizational creativity and innovation by researching the liaison between time pressure and creativity.

By providing employees of a different international firms with an experience survey, their perceived pressure will be determined. On top of that, through this interview the influence of pressure on their performance will be examined and illustrated.

Based upon an exploratory study in the corporate world and an investigation of research literature, the assumption from the corporate world that time pressure positively influences the creativity of its employees is scrutinized. Likewise, examination of what researcher state, namely that time pressure negatively affects creativity will be examined. More specifically, the attempt of this study is to find out whether or not the viewpoints of creativity researchers and the corporate world need to be nuanced.


In this section of the paper, literature concerning creativity and the effects of time pressure is analyzed and thoroughly reviewed. In section 2.1, a theoretical background concerning organizational creativity is given. Furthermore, in section 2.2, extensive literature is reviewed that deals with time pressure and creativity. Many scientific articles concerning this topic are written and in this theoretical chapter, relevant theoretical information is critically assessed.

2.1 Theoretical background of organizational creativity

‘Creativity refers to the production of ideas about products, processes, or procedures that are (a) novel and (b) potentially useful to the organization’ (Amabile, 1996)

Creativity is a broad multi-interpretable expression that is researched extensively. More specifically, research has strongly focused on why certain people or organizations are more creative than others. As Amabile (1996) states in her definition that it is about the usefulness to organizations, research concerning creativity tends to center its attention on the social and organizational context due to the fact that it is frequently considered to be a major pillar of competitive advantage and therefore corporate sustainability. Hence, a firm is concerned with the creativity of what its employees produce, for instance, ideas and plans (Andrews, 1996).

A distinction is to be made between personal creativity and organizational creativity. In case of individual creativity, creativity is a function of three major components: expertise, creative-thinking skills and motivation (Amabile, 1998). According to Amabile (1998), these components can be influenced by the managers through workplace practices and conditions. Expertise and creative-thinking skills are considered as resources of an individual. However, motivation earns more importance as it determines what people will do and more importantly how people will undertake activities.

From an organization wide perspective, Shalley, Gilson and Blum (2000) discriminate between proximal and distal factors related to creativity. In case of proximal factors, behaviour of managers and personal daily experiences are factors that encourage or encourage creativity. In fact, these can be related to personal creativity. On the other hand, there are more contextual factors, such as organizational culture, that influence creativity. These are called distal factors. Shalley et al. (2002) propose a differentiation between these two factors related to creativity. They talk merely about organizational factors when it comes to organizational creativity. As with Woodman et al. (1993) Zhou (2003), I believe that it is it is about the interaction of personal, organizational and environmental factors in affecting creativity. For instance, it could be that somebody in its previous job position has formed personal characteristics, such as expertise and being an entrepreneur, that affect creativity.

Furthermore, certain organizations are creative since they are able to routinely innovate. At first sight, this might seem to come across as bizarre. However, there are different models adopted by organizations that make them able to use their past knowledge in a new way (Hargadon, 2002). Usually in large sized companies, the ‘inns and outs’ of projects are stored in a digital database which is accessible for many employees. Subsequently, employees could gain insights concerning certain projects which might trigger their creativity with regard to their own projects. Creativity is about working towards a level where distinctive knowledge and expertise are present. Moreover, creativity for organizations is about identifying and focussing on hidden core strengths (Steward, 2008).

2.2 Measuring creativity and innovation

At the present time, coming up with great and crazy ideas is not a problem. What many organizations face is the problem of pushing the ideas along. In other words, getting innovation out there and execute the idea. In the media and literature concerning creativity, it is acknowledged that there is a need for more rigorous innovation management (Pentilla, 2008). Important is the question of how creativity and innovation are to be measured. According to a survey of the Boston Consulting Group, companies follow not more than five innovation metrics. Innovation and its pay-offs are to be measured in different ways which makes this process rather arbitrary. For instance, organizations use customer satisfaction, percentage of sales from new products and services and overall revenue growth (Pentilla, 2008). A negative side effect of utilizing these metrics is that a business can get obsessed over a single metric. This means, for example, that an organization will unconsciously consider one metric as highly relevant and other metrics as less relevant and secondary. On the other hand, having to many metrics for the sake of measuring creativity would be self-destructive in a way that it gets in the way of innovation. This is something that happens occasionally. Eventually, it is nobody that will track 20 innovation metrics in its brain (Kelley, 2001).

2.3 Time pressure and creativity

Nowadays, pressure on the work floor is not rare. Moreover, research points out that time pressure in the corporate world is ever increasing. An important reason that is bedrock to this occurring is commonly referred to as ‘The Corporate Anorexia Syndrome’ (Andrews, 1996). This term is used to describe a situation in which the ‘fat’ has been cut from a firm beyond a level that is healthy for existence (Wysocki, 1995). In other words, getting rid of to many people has the consequence of shifting extra work to other employees. As a result, these employees experience more pressure as more work needs to be done in a shorter timeframe. For many executives believe that time pressure encourages people to come up with best ideas, the process that results in more time pressure is unlikely to be altered. However, the assumption that is made by many executives, namely that time pressure positively influences creativity is rather questionable. In his article, Andrews (1996) state that time is an important aspect when it comes to creativity and that time pressure is a ‘creativity killer’. In addition, creativity researchers agree that ideas that seem to come ‘out of nothing’, have been percolating subconsciously for some time (Starker, 1985). Furthermore, in her article Amabile (2002) suggests that under pressure, people will not be able to come up with creative ideas. Furthermore, there is a theory called ‘activation theory’ that agrees with many other creativity researcher that the shape of an inverted ‘U’ might best characterize the time pressure-creativity relation (Gardner & Cummings, 1988). This means that after certain threshold of pressure, creativity is not encouraged. Rather, it is getting killed.

After careful study of literature regarding the relationship between creativity and time pressure, one would unquestionably notice that many researchers agree with each other that time pressure negatively affects creativity and therefore indirectly the process of value creation. By means of this research paper, the viewpoints of these researchers is attempted to be nuanced.

Firstly, it must be said that perceived time pressure as researchers write about is a fairly subjective term. Consequently, it is possible to question the pure validity and reliability of the results provided by these researchers. Nonetheless, this would mean the same for the outcome of this research paper.

Secondly, researchers do not write in a nuanced manner about the relationship between creativity and time pressure. The fact that time pressure is detrimental to creativity, does not necessarily mean that there are no people that conduct good work and come up with creative practical ideas under severe pressure. A non-business example is the voyage of Apollo 13 to the moon in 1970. Due to an accident, the air filtration system was sternly damaged leading to many poisonous gasses in the cabin which would result in death of astronauts. Accordingly, all scientists at NASA headquarters in Houston instantly set their attention on the problem. Under these extreme conditions, these scientists came up with a solution that would protect the astronauts on board from these gasses. Hence, the lives of the astronauts were saved. Even though this is an extreme example, it proves that people definitely can come up with creative ideas under severe pressure conditions.

A final point is that there is not many attention paid by researchers to determine the effects of ‘interval pressure’. What is meant with interval pressure is that periods of high pressure are accompanied with periods of low pressure. If there are effects of interval pressures on creativity, the widely known shape of the inverted ‘U’ representing the relationship time pressure-creativity might need to get revised.

Based on the literature regarding the effect of time pressure on creativity and the process of value creation, the next page presents the theoretical model. In this model, no clear relationships between the variables ‘time pressure’ and creativity are provided. The conclusion of this research paper will provide the possible relationships between these variables based on the interviews that are conducted at a consulting firm.



ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Paperback)
1.8 MB
Institution / Hochschule
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen – Faculty of Economics and Business
2009 (August)
Multifaceted Outcomes Time Pressure Creativity Exploratory Study

Titel: The Multifaceted Outcomes of Time Pressure on Creativity