• Can art awaken our perception?

    “The meaning of life is to see” said the Zen master Hui Neng. To see is to perceive. To awaken to the beauty in and around us.

    Can the hand simply draw what the eye sees? Sounds simple, but it is tough because our mind mediates and translates to the hand what we see. The mind adds its filters to ‘what’ we see and then the hand translates that to the paper. Our task really is to minimize this interference of the mind – to be able to see and perceive with clarity and transparency.

    Art, especially, live sketching can be a potent tool to do this. By working on the ‘eye-heart-hand’ reflex, the hand becomes a seamless tool of the eye. Our mind, with its varied impressions and thoughts, slowly loosens its grip and interference and one starts capturing the true essence of the object. Over time one ‘becomes’ the object, without the interference of the ‘thinking mind’. Art is indeed meditation.

    An authentic drawing uses our eyes and perception, rather than from our ego or the thinking mind. It seeks to capture the object without the artist’s interference. It lets the object speak through the drawing. We can do this by bringing a deep quality of awareness of what we see and draw.

    We will be starting monthly art sessions that will focus on building perception through drawing. Through the sessions, we will explore multiple approaches to perceive and draw in our own unique way. You will learn to draw with authenticity and awareness. You will create a portfolio of art, including a self-portrait, through these sessions.

    Monthly Modules. 10 -11 am on Saturdays. Online on Zoom. For Adults & Kids 13+ Years

    No prior experience in drawing necessary. All levels are welcome! Call/ WhatsApp +91-9790930471 or email creativiti.india@gmail.com to register.

  • Organizational Creativity: A Research Perspective

    What images come to your mind when you think of organizational creativity? Fancy, colorful spaces, expensive perks, larger-than-life personalities? These are useful embellishments, but organizational creativity really is a core competence – an integral part of the DNA of an organization. It acts as a constant source of innovation. In fact, innovation happens on the bedrock of creativity. There can be no innovation without creativity. Think of the most innovative companies through history, both big and small – organizations that made a leap into the future. Think AT&T, Ford, GE, Google, Apple, Sony, Facebook. When these organizations made those giant leaps, what was happening underneath? What is it that gave them this ability to break boundaries and create new possibilities? What are the common characteristics and dynamics of these organizations when they are their creative best? What can we learn from them? There are many ways to unravel these questions. Let us look at it from a scientific perspective – what does research on the subject have to say about it?
    Organizational creativity has widely been defined as the creation of a valuable, useful, new product, service, idea, procedure, or process by individuals working together in a complex social system. Various models have been proposed on organizational creativity over the last 30 years. The complex nature of creativity in organizations is discussed as a common thread in these on account of the multiple levels of factors that influence and contribute to organizational creativity. Amabile proposed a componential model of organizational creativity consisting of skills specific to the task (expertise), general/ cross-domain creativity-relevant skills (creative thinking) and task motivation. Applying this model, for creativity to occur, organizations must ensure they have people with the right expertise (domain specific skills), a workforce that has creative thinking skills and are intrinsically motivated to do the work they do.

    Componential model of creativity, Amabile, 1988

    Later Woodman, Sawyer and Griffin proposed an interactionist perspective on organizational creativity by extending it from an individual level. “Organizational creativity is a function of the creative outputs of its component groups and contextual influences (organizational culture, reward systems, resource constraints, the larger environment outside the system, and so on).” (Woodman et al.,1996, p.296). This view integrates the elements of personality, cognitive, and social psychology in creativity. It is based on three levels of creativity – individual, group, and organizational that have an impact on the creative process and situation, resulting in the creative product for the organization. As per this model, organizational creativity has as input certain characteristics that make individuals, groups and organization creative (e.g. cognitive abilities, group norms, reward systems). These elements interact to produce transformation through creative behavior and creative situations to finally lead to organizational creativity as the end result.

    Interactionist model of organizational creativity, Woodman, Swayer & Griffin (1993)

    The 4Ps of creativity remains an elegant framework to understand and work on organizational creativity. It describes the four strands of creativity as the 4 Ps – (1) person, (2) process, (3) press, (4) products.

    The 4Ps of creativity, Rhodes, 1961

    Much of the work in later years was built on these foundational models of organizational creativity. Ford proposed a multi-level, co-evolutionary process model, where he describes how individual’s interpretation of multiple task domains within and between levels of analysis affect their preference for habitual versus novel actions and how the introduction of novel actions affects evolution of task domains. The multi-level model of creativity focused on the dynamic and changing processes of sense-making that emerge and establish themselves because of the cross-level effects (of individual, group and organization). It examined how periodic organizational crises reframe the negotiated order of belief structures about creativity. 
    While earlier research on creativity focused heavily on the individual, large part of work done on organizational creativity in the more recent years has focused on the social environment aspect and creativity as a deliberate process. The social network perspective on organizational creativity present an individual’s creative life cycle in a social setting in terms of network position. The creative change model, a systems approach to creativity, further builds on the 4 Ps and adds the element of creative change which is an outcome of the interaction of the fours strands or the 4 Ps. Recent works have also looked into the more subtle aspects like the theory of “play” and the impact and relationship of context and feelings on organizational creativity.
    Organizational creativity can be thought of as a core competence that keeps the organization moving, evolving, generating, creating, innovating and re-inventing itself. It is a complex phenomenon with multiple constituents, levels and influences. The various models and frameworks discussed here give organizations an access to manage the inherent complexity of creativity so it can be practically understood and applied. Context remains supreme on determining the level and aspects of creativity that work optimal for an organization. Creativity is not a one-time exercise, but a paradigm shift in how an organization evolves and operates. 


    • Amabile, T. M. (1983). The social psychology of creativity: A componential conceptualization. Journal of personality and social psychology45(2), 357.
    • Drazin, R., Glynn, M. A., & Kazanjian, R. K. (1999). Multilevel theorizing about creativity in organizations: A sensemaking perspective. Academy of Management Review24(2), 286-307.
    • Ford, C. M. (1996). A theory of individual creative action in multiple social domains. Academy of Management Review21(4), 1112-1142.
    • George, J. M., & Zhou, J. (2002). Understanding when bad moods foster creativity and good ones don’t: the role of context and clarity of feelings. Journal of Applied Psychology87(4), 687-697.
    • Mainemelis, C., & Ronson, S. (2006). Ideas are born in fields of play: Towards a theory of play and creativity in organizational settings. Research in Organizational Behavior27, 81-131.
    • Perry-Smith, J. E., & Shalley, C. E. (2003). The social side of creativity: A static and dynamic social network perspective. Academy of Management Review28(1), 89-106.
    • Puccio, G. J., Murdock, M. C., & Mance, M. (2005). Current developments in creative problem solving for organizations: A focus on thinking skills and styles. Korean Journal of Thinking and Problem Solving15(2), 43-76.
    • Rhodes, M. (1961). An analysis of creativity. The Phi Delta Kappan42(7), 305-310.
    • Woodman, R. W. (1981). Creativity as a construct in personality theory. The Journal of Creative Behavior15(1), 43-66.
    • Woodman, R. W., & Schoenfeldt, L. F. (1990). An Interactionist Model of Creative Behavior*. The Journal of Creative Behavior24(4), 279-290.
    • Woodman, R. W., Sawyer, J. E., & Griffin, R. W. (1993). Toward a theory of organizational creativity. Academy of management review18(2), 293-321.
  • For Creativity over Conformity in Classrooms

    Do schools kill creativity, asks Ken Robinson in the much-watched TED talk. I am inclined to say, they do. Of course, educational systems do not work in a vacuum, but are a reflection of the society they function in.

    India’s educational system is modelled on the mass education system that developed in the 19th century in Europe and later spread around the world. Tracing the roots of the movement, the goal is clear — to condition children as “good” citizens and productive workers. This suited the industrial age that needed the constant supply of a compliant workforce with a narrow set of capabilities. The educational environment even today resembles factories with bells, uniforms and batch-processing of learners. They are designed to get learners to conform.
    From an economic standpoint, the environment today is very different. In a complex, volatile and globally interconnected world, new-age skill-sets are essential. Wired magazine estimated that 70 per cent of today’s occupations would become automated by the end of this century. What will be the role of humans in this new economy? Linear, routine thinking will have no advantage. It calls for flexibility, adaptation, new thinking, paradigm shifts, and innovation — and that is the language of creativity. Creativity is an essential 21st century skill.

    So, how would an educational system built around creativity look like? I use the word creativity here in its broadest sense — the nurturing and igniting of a human being’s latent talent and abilities to the fullest potential. From a scientific perspective, creativity is an aptitude for new, original and imaginative thinking. Let us consider some key aspects of an educational system with creativity at its core.
    Outcomes: In a creative educational system, the infinite range of human abilities and talents finds an equal place. Creative learning produces growth in both cognitive and affective dimensions and leads to the production of outcomes that are rich and complex, original and expressive. There is a harmonious development of body, mind and spirit. Outcomes include the development of higher-order thinking skills, creativity, problem-solving ability, self-awareness and aesthetic sensibilities.
    Pedagogy: Several studies suggest that the innate creativity and curiosity of children are lost in the conventional schooling methods. In creative classrooms, the teacher and students are participants in the learning process. Pedagogies take into account the diversity of learning styles, involve all the senses and body, and are fundamentally experiential in nature. The learning environment challenges students to use complex thinking, provide time to think and play with new ideas and encounter knowledge in varied ways to lead to personal and meaningful insights. Classrooms are playgrounds for exploration, inquiry and reflection.
    Assessments: Current assessment mechanisms largely rely on a one-time, high-stake standardised testing measuring a narrow range of abilities. Studies indicate that gifted students underachieve in these assessments, and up to 30 per cent of high school dropouts may be highly gifted. Assessments that nurture creativity are built for intrinsic motivation and enable growth on one’s unique path. They are flexible, cover diverse dimensions and rely extensively on self-assessment. They encourage students to raise questions, probe, create possibilities and give play to imagination.
    Content: Today, there is an inbuilt hierarchy of content in education. For the 21st century economy, content knowledge has little meaning without the skills of creativity, problem-solving, and human connection. In a creative system, any kind of creative potential has an equal chance of blossoming, be it in languages, maths, art or any other. Creative thinking, imagination and expression are the core focus across all content. There is cross-pollination of subjects and an infusion of art, aesthetics and design into the mainstream.

    Globally, there is a growing body of thinkers, parents and educators concerned with the system. Creativity, design thinking and metacognition are being recognised as 21st century skills. Finland went against the tide in its education policies and has generated interest for its high scores. It follows a highly decentralised and flexible structure with high-quality teachers who have autonomy over curriculum and student assessments. There is no standardised testing, and teaching is a coveted profession.

    A nation’s educational system can unfold from its innate strengths, and uniqueness. India can take inspiration from its days of educational and intellectual excellence. Learning was infused with music, art and poetry. Higher-order thinking, self-awareness, deep inquiry, aesthetics, intuition, discussions and debates were integral to education. Creativity in many ways was pervasive in the goals, methods and content of education.
    The draft of India’s new education policy is expected. What direction will India take in the journey forward? Will it conform to the familiar, or create its unique path?

    Originally published in The Hindu on 16/02/2016. http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/for-creativity-over-conformity-in-classrooms/article8241436.ece

  • How can organizations motivate employees towards creativity?

    Way back in 1960, McGregor put forth “Theory Y” against “Theory X” based on different assumptions about human motivation. The conventional Theory X assumes employees are fundamentally passive and indolent and therefore management should direct employee efforts. Theory Y assumes employees are already motivated towards development and responsibility – management’s task is to facilitate them to achieve their goals best by directing their efforts towards organizational objectives. Years later, despite scientific evidence to the contrary, most organizations still operate on Theory X. I have often wondered why. Innovation happens on the bedrock of employee creativity. Research indicates that organizational creativity leads to financial returns, employee value, competitive advantage and growth in organizational capabilities. Organizational innovation requires creative people – and they need to be motivated towards creativity. It is not capability but motivational orientation that decides what a creative individual will actually do in a given situation.
    Discussed below are key motivational factors that impact employee creativity, based on years of scientific research in the subject. While the focus is on organizations, it is applicable in any context – education, family, parenting, communities – wherever creativity is desired.
    Rewards: Reward is the most commonly used motivator. Research indicates that rewards, inappropriately used, can kill intrinsic motivation and creativity. While task non-contingent (not for a specific task/ activity) and task-contingent (for a task/ activity) rewards do not undermine intrinsic motivation and creativity, performance-contingent (on performance goals) and completion-contingent rewards (on task completion) significantly undermine it, perhaps on account of the controlling component. When the controlling aspects are minimized and competence cues are enhanced, these rewards can maintain or enhance intrinsic motivation. Similarly, pay can have modest effect on innovative work behaviours. Using rewards for creativity calls for a nuanced understanding on its what (kind of reward), how (rewards are distributed) and why (the types of behaviours rewarded).
    Job Design: The way jobs are structured effects creativity – an optimal match of skill and challenge is key. A state of flow (a term by Csikszentmihalyi) is achieved when people engage in challenging tasks to their maximum ability – one gives one’s best and feels rewarded by the activity itself. Research indicates that challenge, autonomy and complexity in the job lead to focused attention and engagement. These give people excitement and a powerful sense of pleasure – allowing them to seek questions they really want to pursue, an essential ingredient for creative achievements. Many studies support this view – that regulation through choice is characterized by flexibility and the absence of pressure. By contrast, being controlled is characterized by rigidity and the experience of having to do what one is doing.
    Group Dynamics: Creativity in organizations is a collective process of combining the knowledge, abilities and skills of a diverse set of people. For organizational creativity, moments of collective creativity are necessary. Organizational, social and other-focused psychological processes play important roles in motivating collective creativity. Prosocial motivation (focused on benefitting others) enables adopting others’ viewpoints to understand their preferences, values and needs. Amabile and Kramer identified the nourishment factor in team creativity – ways of providing interpersonal support, such as encouragement, respect and collegiality. These findings question the impact of rampant and long-term use of competition on creative thinking and innovation. The collective nature of organizational creativity is nurtured through collaboration and development of its social, cognitive and affective dimensions.
    Leadership: Like a conductor of an orchestra, leadership plays an integrating role. Leaders create the symphony of these motivators and facilitate creative efforts by individuals and teams. They impact the creation of roles, work environments, work relationships and human resource practices like rewards, goals and evaluations. Leaders impact psychological empowerment, which influences both intrinsic motivation and creative process engagement. Transformational leadership, a key concept in creative leadership, has a positive relationship to employee creativity. It involves charismatic role modelling, individualized consideration, inspirational motivation, and intellectual stimulation. This integrative style of leadership anchors all the motivational factors, orchestrating expertise, people, and relationships to bring new ideas into being.
    Goal setting, time availability, resource design and types of evaluations are other important factors that promote creativity. Driving creative behaviour requires a fine balance of multiple elements – individual and group motivations, extrinsic and intrinsic motivators, structure and flexibility, resource availability and creative constraints. None of the mechanisms are categorically negative or positive for creativity – but through deeper understanding and right usage, each can become powerful motivators. A word of caution is to note that not all roles require high creativity, and the conventional carrot-and-stick approach may have its appropriate uses. The extent of creativity needed should dictate the design of motivational factors. Driving creativity and reaping its benefits calls for a balanced application of these factors, commitment and a long-term outlook.
    Originally published in linkedin. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-can-organizations-motivate-employees-towards-celia-pillai?published=u
    Based on a paper by me published in ‘Big Questions in Creativity 2016’, ICSC Press, Buffalo NY. https://www.amazon.com/Big-Questions-Creativity-2016-Collection/dp/0984979573