Are hopeful employees more innovative? A new study by Armenio Rego and his colleagues shows how employees’ sense of hope explains their creative output at work. They asked one hundred and twenty five employees to rate their personal sense of hope and happiness while their supervisors rated the employees’ creativity. Based on the correlations, they conclude that hope predicts creativity.
Hope is defined as a positive motivational belief in one’s future; the feeling that what is wanted can be had; that events will turn out for the best. Hoping is an integral part of being human. Without hope, tasks such as innovating become difficult if not impossible. Why bother if there is no hope for a successful future? “Hope is important for innovation at work because creativity requires challenging the status quo and a willingness to try and possibly fail. It requires some level of internal, sustaining force that pushes individuals to persevere in the face of challenges inherent to creative work.”
I have observed this in practice. I once facilitated employees in a division about to be sold to another company. The employees learned about the divestiture during the workshop. Morale was low, and participants were not responsive to systematic innovation techniques. They lacked hope…hope about their future employment and personal achievement. To salvage the workshop, we re-framed it. We told the employees they needed to innovate so that they would be perceived as valuable to their new owners. Innovating would give them an immediate jump-start on becoming competitive in the marketplace, something they struggled with under the current owner. Once hopeful, they kicked innovation into high gear. That workshop was one of the most successful and creative I have ever experienced.
What can leaders do to inspire hope? Darren Webb has outlined a useful model in his paper, “Modes of Hoping.” He identifies five types of hope:
Using this model, leaders can create hope at several levels to strengthen innovation:
Bottom line: don’t hope for innovation; instill hope instead.
Rego, A., Machado, F., Leal, S. & Cunha, M.P.E. (2009) Are Hopeful Employees More Creative? An Empirical Study. Creativity Research Journal, 21(2-3), 223-231.
Webb, D. (2007) Modes of Hoping. History of Human Sciences, 20, 65-83.