Puccio, G., & Acar, S. (2015). Creativity will stop you from being promoted, right? Wrong! A comparison of creative thinking preferences across organizational levels. Business Creativity and the Creative Economy, 1 (1), 4-12. http://dx.doi.org/10.18536/bcce.2015.07.1.1.02

Abstract

A number of reports have suggested that creative thinking is a crucial skill for today’s organizational leaders. In contrast, results from experimental studies have led some to argue that the negative associations between creative thinking and leadership potential might stop individuals from being promoted into leadership positions. The present study used creative problem solving preferences identified by the FourSight Thinking Profile (i.e., Clarifier, Ideator, Developer, and Implementer) to evaluate the thinking styles of individuals across organizational levels. Analysis of data gathered from 7,280 professionals showed that individuals in more senior leadership positions reported significantly higher Ideator preferences, which is a tendency to generate a large number of possibilities, to think in original ways, to apply imagination and to seek change. A similar pattern was found for the Implementer scale, which measures an inclination toward action and risk, in that those in senior positions also showed tendency towards higher preferences on this scale when compared to those in non-management and entry-level leadership positions. No significant differences were found across organizational level for the Clarifier and Developer scales, which measure preferences for problem definition and solution refinement, respectively. Further analysis across sectors revealed that those in senior leadership positions in the private sector possessed even stronger Ideator preferences than those in the public sector. These findings seem to provide evidence that key aspects of creative thinking, specifically divergent thinking and imagination, are valued and necessary among strategic-level leaders.