Is Management the Enemy of Creativity?

Teresa Amabile in her Harvard Business blog says there’s a crisis in corporate management. “While the basis of competition has shifted decisively to innovation, most management tools and approaches are still geared to exploit established ideas rather than explore new ones.”

In my experience as a coach and creativity consultant, middle management presents some of the biggest impediments to organizational creativity and innovation, unless there is a  culture that supports creative endeavours.

Amabile says, “There’s no question that it would be better for a business to learn to work with the creative impulses of its own people. But what would that entail in a large organization? Is the whole notion of managerial discipline antithetical to creativity? Or, as Scott Cook of Intuit recently put it, “Is the end of management near?’ “

Industrial-age command-and-control style management is out of sync in a Creative Economy. I agree with Amabile who says we need to  reinvent management in order to:

  • Enable collaboration by people with diverse perspectives on a problem
  • Respect the fact that creativity thrives in situations where there is slack and redundancy.
  • Rethink job design and incentive systems in light of what really motivates creativity: intellectual challenge and public affirmation.
  • Manage as though we expect creativity from everyone — not just isolated “lone geniuses”


About the Author:

Linda is founder of Creativity at Work and co-author of Orchestrating Collaboration at Work. She helps executives and their teams develop creativity, innovation, and leadership capabilities, through coaching, training and consulting. Linda brings a multi-disciplinary approach to learning and development by leveraging arts-based practices to foster creativity at work, and design thinking as a strategy for innovation.