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Fearless Idea 24: Unleash Your Creativity

Mar 24, 2017
World Class Faculty & Research

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SMITH BRAIN TRUST — Sharing creative ideas at work can be risky. What if a suggestion appears foolish? What if it upsets a comfortable routine? What if it fails? When in doubt, many employees keep their mouths shut. One way to counteract these instincts and foster creativity is to develop a seemingly unrelated skill: Networking. Professor Vijaya Venkataramani at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business and her co-authors show the link between creativity and networking in a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

“Networking and creativity are closely tied,” Venkataramani says. That’s partly because employees with robust social and professional networks have access to information and support systems that make creative ideas less risky to generate and pitch.

The link grows stronger when employees have access to their managers’ networks, which amplifies feelings of connectivity. “The more managers were connected to their own teams and their peer leaders, the more employees brought forth creative ideas,” Venkataramani says.

Managers can start by using their internal networks to make employees more aware of organizational goals, so employees understand how their ideas might fit within the broader environment. Sharing external networks help employees see outside perspectives.

The research also has implications for employees. “When job hunting, seek out managers who have strong networks within and outside their organizations,” Venkataramani says. “More importantly, seek out managers willing to share these networks with you.”

In the end quality counts more than quantity. “Employees will be in the best position to bring forth creative ideas when they have access to strong and diverse networks,” Venkataramani says.

Read more: Venkataramani, V., & Richter, A. & Clarke, R. (2014). Creative Benefits from Well-Connected Leaders? Leader Social Network Ties as Facilitators of Employee Radical Creativity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99 (5), 966-975.

Vijaya Venkataramani is an associate professor in the Management & Organization Department at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. She serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Research interests: How and why virtual teams outperform traditional face-to-face teams in creative tasks; how employees can get recognition for their novel ideas and secure support for implementing them; how informal social relationships and networks influence leadership, creativity and discretionary employee behaviors that are not stipulated as part of the job, but that still are important for organizational well-being; how leaders can use their networks to benefit their employees, and how such connections influence leader behaviors and decisions.

Selected accomplishments: Research has appeared in such journals as the Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, and Organizational Behavior & Human Decision Processes.

About this series: The Smith School faculty is celebrating Women’s History Month 2017 in partnership with ADVANCE, an initiative to transform the University of Maryland by investing in a culture of inclusive excellence. Daily faculty spotlights support activities from the school’s Office of Diversity Initiatives, culminating with the sixth annual Women Leading Women forum on March 30, 2017.

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.