The creativity style of managers and business students


yvind Martinsen

Institute for Knowledge Management, Norwegian School of Management, Oslo

and Psychometrics Unit, The Faculty of Psychology, University of Bergen, Norway


Much research has aimed at identifying the most important attributes of managers and in particular on the attributes of efficient managers (e.g., Bass, 1990; Simonton, 1995; Yukl, 1998). Although no clear theory seems to have emerged from these research efforts, much evidence has accumulated, and this information may have high value in guiding further research, and in acting as a general framework for educational programs aimed at the development of leadership attributes and skills.

While previous research efforts may have been fruitful in this regard, we may still ask questions associated with managers' and leaders' profiles of attributes. First of all, several constructs and measures have been used to describe attributes of managers in previous research. However, beyond typical measures of cognitive styles, personality, and managerial styles, less attention has been given to the characteristics associated with creativity, although creativity frequently is emphasized as valuable and even necessary in many business settings. Creativity may for example be involved in change operations, visioneering, strategy construction, and in the daily operative work. Thus, the personal characteristics that have been associated with creativity (e.g., Feist, 1999) may serve as a useful framework also in research on leadership and management. Moreover, managers' and leaders' typical profiles on measures of creativity may serve as a point of departure for the construction of educational activities to foster creativity.

Another question that may be important in research on personal characteristics associated with creativity is whether leaders/managers and business students have similar profiles of characteristics. Research on personality indicates that it is generally stable over time, in particular beyond the age of 30 (Piedmont, 1998). Based on such findings we may expect to find that business students and leaders have relatively similar profiles on measures that capture traits that are important for productivity and creativity.

To investigate these issues, the present paper focuses on the profiles of business students and leaders/managers on a measure that has been designed to tap important characteristics associated with creativity. This measure is called the Creative Person Profile (CPP) (Martinsen, 1999), and it's content is based on an empirical analysis of the constructs that have been found to be important for creativity during the last 50 years of creativity research along with some theoretically relevant additional constructs. In a validation report (Martinsen, 1999), with approximately 235 subjects from various groups, six factors were isolated, and their labels and facets can be seen in Table 1.


Insert Table 1 about here



In this study, the reliabilities were generally high and the variables were generally normally distributed. The results from this study also indicate that all six factors predict some type of creative activity (like music, acting, visual arts, writing), that motivation and associative orientation predict ideational fluency, that motivation and flexibility predict insight, and that motivation, originalty, and associative orientation are associated with intelligence (verbal analogies). The most important predictor, by far, across the different criteria of creativity was the associative orientation, which resembles the Openness for new experiences in the big five model of personality. Thus, the orientation towards playfulness, fantasy, absorption, and the occurrence of weak boundaries (high scores on this facet) seems to have an important function in creativity. Theoretically, high scores on this factor indicate that people have an intellectual, playful attitude towards idea production, that they may associate and connect across systems of constructs, that they may visualize and phantasize a great deal, and that they may become totally absorbed in their activities.


When comparing several groups, including leaders/managers, business students, and performing artists on the six main dimensions, potentially important differences occur.


Insert Table 2 about here


In Table two it is evident that the most important differences between leaders/managers and business students are the scores on the factors Ambition and Motivation. Beyond any eventual influences of selection and self-selection in the present samples, these findings may indicate that only those students with higher scores on Motivation and Ambition become leaders/managers after their graduation. If this holds in future research, it may signal a need for motivation training as part of the business education. This can for example be done by adapting McClellands programs for the development of nAch and nPower.

The second noteworthy finding in the results above, is that both business students and leaders/managers have higher scores on the Flexibility factor. This may indicate that these people are good problem solvers when the task is to restructure and to find new perspectives. However, the lower scores for the two selected groups on the factor Associative orientation (indicating a realistic, down-to-earth-attitude) may indicate that business students and leaders/managers are not very good at visualising the future, or generating novel ideas or combinations of ideas, although they may be realistic and sound decision makers. This may signal a need for business education to focus more on the value of creativity, on the power of visualizing, techniques for generating novel ideas, and how to recognize the need to generate novel ideas and to use phantasy in contrast to tasks where the need for sound, realistic decisions is strong.



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Bass, B. M. (1997). Does the transactional-transformational leadership paradigm transcend organizational and national boundaries? American Psychologist, 52, 130-139

Feist, G. J. (1999). The influence of Personality on artistic creativity. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of creativity (pp. 273-296). NY: Cambridge University Press

Martinsen, . (1999). The creative personality: A synthesis and development of the Creative Person Profile. Technical report. Psychometrics Unit, Bergen: University of Bergen

Piedmont, R. L. (1998). The revised NEO personality inventory. Clinical and research applications. New York: Plenum

Simonton, D. K. (1995). Personality and intellectual predictors of leadership. I D. H. Saklofske, and M. Zeidner (Eds.), International handbook of personality and intelligence (pp. 739-757). New York: Plenum

                    Yukl, G. A. (1989). Leadership in organizations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall


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