Network to Unleash Your Creativity

Aug 28, 2017
As Featured In 
Journal of Applied Psychology

Robust Support Systems Promote Speak-up Culture

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: Creative Benefits from Well-Connected Leaders: Leader Social Network Ties as Facilitators of Employee Radical Creativity is featured in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

About the Author(s)

Vijaya Venkataramani

Vijaya Venkataramani is an Associate Professor of Management & Organization at the R.H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. She currently serves as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Applied Psychology. Professor Venkataramani's research focuses on how informal social relationships and social networks at work influence leadership, creativity, and discretionary employee behaviors in organizations (behaviors that are not stipulated as part of the job, but that still are important for organizational well-being).

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