Creativity Portal - Spring into Creativity
  Home  ·   Creativity Interviews  ·   Imagination Prompt Generator  ·   Writing  ·   Arts & Crafts
  What's New » Authors » Prompts » Submit »
Team Creativity At Work I and II: Creative Problem Solving At Its Best
Edward Glassman : Self-Direction, Self-Motivation Helps Team Creativity

How Self-Direction & Self-Motivation Helps Innovation & Team Creativity

By Edward Glassman, PhD

Leaders do not always know how to boost creative effort in their team. These suggestions can help.

Responsible Self-Direction

Self-directed activity with high inner motivation helps creative efforts. Internal rewards for solving a problem creatively include the challenge, excitement, enjoyment, interest, novelty, a sense of control over one's work, curiosity, positive feedback to oneself on competence, etc.

In contrast, external rewards (focusing on salary raises, promotion, awards, etc.) spoil creative thinking by distracting people from the daily enjoyment of creative work.

Thus, train people toward responsible self direction: "responsible" because they respect organizational goals; and "self-direction" because they become self-motivated to:

  • Perform their job competently and effectively
  • Take responsibility
  • Set high and realistic goals
  • Negotiate and keep agreements
  • Solve problems creatively
  • Accept direction from others, when necessary
  • Plan and use their time wisely
  • Work productively alone and with others to accomplish goals

Encourage Participative Interactions in Meetings

When you dominate meetings, you hinder people from solving problems creatively and reduce self-direction. Participative interaction in meetings occur when you and your work group:

  • use effective group discussion skills
  • collaborate instead of compete
  • use consensus decision making
  • rotate the chair of meetings
  • periodically review and discuss ways to improve problem solving during meetings

If your team lacks these skills, consider team excellence training. Research has shown that trained work groups often produce creative solutions of high quality. These approaches focus discussion on relevant topics and help achieve consensus, while increasing team cohesiveness. Commitment to implement decisions also increases.

In contrast, untrained work groups frequently produce outcomes of lower quality. Such work groups often contain dominating individuals or cliques who pursue personal agendas rather than group goals. Use 'self-directed team building,' described in my book, to develop creative thinking, teamwork, and cooperation.

Negotiate Disagreements Creatively

Negotiating disagreements using win-win problem-solving techniques can help people become more self-directed and more creative when solving problems. Success depends on your ability to:

  • assert
  • listen for understanding
  • respond non-evaluatively
  • mutually generate and agree on solutions with the people in your work group

If you do not possess these skills, you may want to learn them or call in a third party to help manage conflict.


Empower subordinates for innovation & creativity through challenging tasks. Do not confuse this with making changes in routine work tasks that lead to job enlargement or mere job rotation. True empowerment occurs when you:

  • remove some controls
  • increase accountability for their own work
  • assign a complete task
  • grant additional authority
  • introduce more difficult tasks
  • assign unique roles

Changes like these encourage more self-direction and creative thinking in your work group.

Use Participative Goal Setting and Performance Appraisal

Mutual description of the subordinate's job roles, mutual setting of work goals, and mutual evaluation of goal accomplishment boost creative output.

Consider reversing the usual goal setting procedure. Instead of telling your goals, ask each person in your work group to state his or her goals. If you like them, back them to the hilt, and encourage creative effort. If you do not accept them, negotiate mutually acceptable goals.

Provide Training

People in your work group need the following skills to carry out organization goals responsibly with a minimum of supervision:

  • teamwork and team interaction skills
  • time management and stress management skills
  • communication skills for resolving conflict creatively
  • advanced creative thinking techniques to shift paradigms and achieve quality solutions

These are just a few ways you can help creativity in your work unit. List your own ideas on how you will lead your team for greater creativity at work. •

© 2010 by Edward Glassman. All rights reserved.

Edward Glassman, PhDEdward Glassman, PhD was the President of the Creativity College®, a division of Leadership Consulting Services, Inc., and Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he headed the Program For Team Effectiveness And Creativity. More »