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Creativity and Bureaucracy

Hirst et al (2011) set out to investigate how bureaucracy impacts the creativity of individuals within organizations. According to the authors bureaucracy in the organization takes the form of formalization and centralization. To investigate these effect Hirst et al (2011) conducted a study involving 330 employees of the Taiwan Custom’s Bureau.

The research found that managers have to control the behaviour of employees through formalization and centralized decision making. However, they have also had to be aware that team bureaucracy is likely to suppress individual expression which is the key to creativity. However, if the manager practices a very low of formalization avoid orientation takes root in the organization.

The findings of the study imply that managers should practice decentralization to encourage creativity among learning-oriented employees (Hirst et al, 2011). With lesser constraints on individual behaviour individuals will express their creativity more freely. Despite this positive results avoid-oriented employee are likely to be less creative with less decentralization. However, managers must understand that less formalization provides an environment where avoid orientation can prosper (Hirst et al, 2011). It can be deduced that the two classes of workers (avoid-oriented and learning oriented) react differently to reduction in formalization and centralization in the organization.


Hirst, G., Van Knippenberg, D., Chen, C. H., & Sacramento, C. A. (2011). How does bureaucracy impact individual creativity? A cross-level investigation of team contextual influences on goal orientation–creativity relationships. Academy of Management Journal, 54(3), 624-641.