Today’s organisations must foster conditions that motivate employees to develop creative solutions that are both novel and useful. Yet product novelty and usefulness have been characterized by distinct mutually exclusive cognitive motivational processes. For instance, individuals generate novel solutions when they are intrinsically motivated, feel safe to take risks, and are eager to learn and explore new domains. In contrast, individuals develop useful and feasible solutions when they consider the perspective of others, and are eager to reduce uncertainty by drawing on well-known practices and frameworks. Given this inherent creative tension between novelty and usefulness, an important question is how can organizations motivate employees to develop solutions that are both novel and useful?
I will present studies aimed to answer this question. The first study investigates how learning and performance achievement goals can motivate individuals to develop products that are both novel and useful. Using a product development task, a learning achievement goal enhanced product novelty by increasing cognitive flexibility, whereas a performance achievement goal enhanced product usefulness by increasing cognitive closure. Furthermore, simultaneous focus on learning and performance achievement goals enhanced the novelty and usefulness dimensions of creativity more than shifting between learning and performance goals at different phases of the creativity task. However, the benefits of simultaneous achievement goals were mitigated when individuals experience negative affect. This suggests that in addition to encouraging both achievement goals, organizations should promote coping strategies for managing the inherent tensions associated with pursuing both goals.
I will offer paradoxical frames, as a possible coping strategy that encourages individuals to embrace contradictions, and review experimental and field research that demonstrates the positive effect of paradoxical frames on creativity.