Research profile: Can companies inspire creativity?


Professor Darren Dahl is diving into the complexities of creativity in the marketing world. Working collaboratively with his colleagues at the Sauder School of Business he is conducting fresh new research that could help companies identify ways to inspire creativity.

Darren Dahl

Dahl knows that creativity is a complex concept that involves the interplay of cognitive, social and psychological skills and attributes. 

“Creative intent, urge and ability vary from person to person,” states Dahl, “So determining what factors inspire creativity can be difficult.”

The marketing professor is up to the challenge, however. He and his colleagues have uncovered data that suggests creativity is dependent upon the recognition individuals receive for their efforts. 

For example, individuals who are rewarded with social recognition, tend to develop their creative ideas from existing ventures resulting in a more conventional outcome. When the prize is monetary, however, individuals tend to look further afield for their ideas yielding riskier but potentially more creative results.

These examples highlight what companies might consider when developing new products or fostering new ideas from both their employees and their customers. Where a more comprehensive creative effort is desired, companies could inspire consumers with social recognition, but when really nontraditional results are preferred they should consider financial incentives.

This line of inquiry segues nicely into Dahl’s other line of research related to crowd-sourcing; a concept that relies on delegation of tasks to lay people, community groups or other undefined population segments, rather than using traditional experts. He has been studying consumer perceptions of crowd-sourcing and the companies that rely on these non-professional designers.

His results suggest that when it comes to non-complex products, customers believe that companies using consumer designers instead of professionals will end up with products that are more creative and interesting. “One of the reasons this perception exists is because there are more consumers than professional designers,” says Dahl. “These larger numbers mean that there will be an increased diversity of ideas generated by people who actually use the products.”

Dahl’s diverse program of research is nicely integrated based on one major goal: to help businesses improve their bottom lines. By undertaking research that examines how creativity impacts consumers and how it can be fostered in the organization, Dahl is assisting businesses to enjoy long-term success.

Learn more about Professor Darren Dahl and his latest research interests.