Creative and Innovative Encouragement

Published on May 17, 2021

Bauer Researcher Studies Firms Influence of Creativity and Innovation in Research and Development

Baker Hughes Professor, Robert T. Keller

Recognizing and encouraging creativity and innovation in employees can give companies an advantage, but most research has focused more on how to motivate individuals, as opposed to when they are part of a team.

As a growing number of problems require solutions achieved through knowledge-sharing and collaboration, C. T. Bauer College of Business Baker Hughes Professor Robert T. Keller has focused much of his research on how firms can influence creativity and innovation among people who are part of a team, with an emphasis on those engaged in Research & Development (R&D).

In the recently published, “Initiative Climate, Psychological Safety, and Knowledge-Sharing as a Predictor of Team Creativity: A Multilevel Study of R&D Project Teams,” Keller and co-authors develop and tested an organizational learning contingency model of creativity on 88 project teams.

Challenged more than ever before by rapidly changing technology, R&D teams are charged with developing innovative products at an equally rapid pace. A primary finding of “The Initiative Climate,” research, published in Creativity and Innovation Management, is that taking steps to establish psychological safety among team members can influence performance and functioning and the willingness to share creative ideas. Keller’s co-authors were Yi Liu of Trinity University and Kenneth Bartlett of the University of Minnesota.

In “Predicting the Performance and Innovativeness of Scientists and Engineer,” Keller tested the impact of individual characteristics to predict performance and innovation. The research involved 644 scientists and engineers on R&D teams working at high tech firms in Taiwan, documenting their performance at one-and five-year marks. Keller used personality traits such as innovativeness, initiative, and others to successfully predict job performance ratings and the number of patents produced at one-year and five-year marks in the research.

Only a small percentage of scientists and engineers produce a majority of an organization’s technological innovations, Keller said.

“The presence of innovative employees can enhance the innovativeness of others,” he noted. “Also, scientists and engineers share similarities with other knowledge workers such as physicians, lawyers, and accountants. Understanding how individual and situational characteristics combine to predict performance for scientists and engineers may lend insight to knowledge workers in general.”

Both studies encourage managers to pro-actively look for ways to support psychological safety and bolster employees’ existing positive personality traits.

“Predicting Performance” research was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 2012.

Keller was named one of the most cited researchers in the world by the open access academic journal, PLoS Biology, in 2020. His research on technological innovation in R&D organizations has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Center for Innovation Management Studies at Lehigh University, Shell Oil Foundation, and the German Marshall Fund. He serves on the editorial board of Journal of High Technology Management Research, IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management (past department editor) and the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies.  Keller has twice been a member of the editorial review board of the Academy of Management Journal and is Past Chair of the Technology and Innovation Management Division of the Academy of Management, a member of the Academy Council, and a charter member of the Academy of Management Journal’s Hall of Fame.

By Julie Bonnin