Research Paper By Judy Laws
(Executive Coach, CANADA)
This research paper explores coaching as a powerful development tool in working with individuals in developing their creative abilities via developing their creative self-efficacy.
The effects of rising complexity calls for CEOs and their teams to lead with bold creativity, connect with customers in imaginative ways and design their operations for speed and flexibility that will position their organizations for twenty-first century success (IBM Global CEO Study, 2010). Companies are being forced to shift to a “creativity orientation” in an effort to endure the dynamic, ever-changing global marketplace (Laws, 2002).
The need for creative leadership – the ability to deliberately engage one’s imagination to define and guide a group toward a novel goal; a direction that is new for the group – is seen as critical within organizations (Puccio, Mance, and Murdock, 2011,page xviii). Many leaders lack the ability to think creatively and to facilitate creative thinking in others, a core competency of creative leadership (Puccio, Mance, and Murdock, 2011,page xviii).
Extensive research on self-efficacy provides evidence that there is a strong relationship between self-efficacy – an individual’s belief in their ability to perform a behavior in a given situation – and performance of a specific task (e.g., Bandura, 1977a, 1977b; 1986; 1997; Lent, Brown, & Larkin, 1987; Taylor, Locke, Lee, & Gist, 1984). Research on creative self-efficacy also found evidence of the interaction between the belief an individual held about their creative ability, the creative experiences and successes they had, and the influence of the environment, which led to their creative productivity (Laws, 2002).
Although there are many things that can contribute to the development of an individual’s creative ability, exploring with an individual’s their creative self-efficacy – an individual’s belief in their ability to be creative in a given situation – would be a good starting point. This is supported by the work of Bandura who proposed that people’s judgments about what they can accomplish are influential arbitrators in human agency, and, as such, are powerful determinants of their behavior (1986; 1997). Consequently, these self-efficacy beliefs are said to act as mediators between other acknowledged influences on behavior – such as skill, ability, or previous accomplishments – and subsequent performance (Bandura, 1982).
Coaching, a collaborative, co-creative partnership that helps people get from where they are to where they want to be has long been used as a development tool to improve performance. For example, research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that 78 percent of managers use coaching for improving individual performance (2005). Coaching, in turn, can have a significant impact on an individual’s development of specific skills and abilities and ultimately performance.
This paper explores coaching as a powerful development tool in working with individuals in developing their creative abilities via developing their creative self-efficacy.
Creativity as a Core Competency
Creativity – a multi-faceted phenomenon that results in production of new (or novel) and useful (or appropriate) ideas – has been viewed as possible in any field of human activity. However, creativity for the sake of creativity is a common concern for many organizations as they shift to a “creativity orientation.” Ultimately, the focus needs to be on deliberate creativity i.e. taking a proactive approach toward the production of novel and useful ideas that address a predicament or opportunity (Puccio, Mance, and Murdock, 2011, p. xvi) if organizations and leaders want to be successful in a complex and ever-changing global marketplace.
Creative thinking is an essential life skill. It is a rational process that enables people to successfully produce novel and useful responses to open-ended challenges and opportunities. Creative thinking involves specific cognitive, metacognitive, and affective skills. Once internalized, these skills can be readily applied to all areas of life (Puccio and Murdock, 2001, p.70).
As such, an individual’s ability to think creatively and to facilitate creative thinking in others is seen as a core competency of a leader and one that needs to be enhanced in leaders (Puccio, Mance, and Murdock, 2011). Although developing this ability can be achieved via training e.g. on how to think creativity, one could propose that if an individual does not feel efficacious about their ability to think creatively it is unlikely that they will internalize the training they have received.
Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s subjective beliefs about his/her capability to succeed at performing a specific task (Bandura, 1977a; 1977b; 1986; 1997). People usually possess differing degrees of self-efficacy about various tasks. For example, some believe they are good in science but not so good in English, while for others it is the other way around. The various self-efficacy examples people have ordinarily evolve out of previous successful or unsuccessful experiences, observations of others, as well as others’ encouragement or doubt, and various physiological factors. In general, the more self-efficacy an individual has, the more motivated and persistent they will be in accomplishing a task, and the more difficult tasks they will attempt and succeed at. Feelings of self-efficacy start developing in early childhood and continue throughout an individual’s life; they are not constant and fixed and can be enhanced or diminished (Pennsylvania State University World Campus, 2011).
Research on self-efficacy beliefs and creative performance discovered that there was an interaction between the belief an individual held about their creative ability, the creative experiences and successes they had, and the influence of the environment which led to their creative productivity (Laws, 2002). Based on this, Laws defined creative self-efficacy as an individual’s belief in their ability to be creative in a given situation (2002).
Core findings that emerged from her research on the creative self-efficacy of research and development scientists included:
- Creative people believe they are creative (feel efficacious about their creative abilities), which contributes to their acting and thinking in a creative manner.
- Creative self-efficacy seems to operate below the surface of awareness for an individual; it is not something they would have thought about until asked, and positively influences creative performance.
- Creative self-efficacy can be traced back to age four to twelve through the act of building things and making things work. It is influenced by freedom and thought space to be creative, along with positive feedback.
- Creative self-efficacy contributes to the creative process providing confidence in the individual to use novel and new approaches to solve technical problems.
- Sources of creative self-efficacy are often based on performance accomplishments.
- The strength of a creative person’s creative self-efficacy supports their ability to solve technical problems creatively no matter how difficult the problem.
Self-motivation is the core of creative self-efficacy. An individual relates to the intrinsic need for competence to feel a certain level of creative self-efficacy. An individual with low creative self-efficacy can become entrenched in self-doubt because they “never get a chance to prove him or herself wrong and never give themselves opportunities to observe expert models or receive instruction” (Reeve, 2009, p. 238). Although an employer can’t control an employee’s creative self-efficacy an effective manager or coach can encourage it and help the individual develop the confidence the individual is lacking.
Coaching as a Development Tool
Effective coaching is one of the many development paths for developing leaders and managers. Coaching can be seen as a type of informal learning where employees with potential can learn from various perspectives. Consequently, coaching has great importance as a development tool in helping an individual identify their development areas and to identify actions that will allow the individual to move forward. If proper coaching methods are used, not only individuals can flourish but also organizations can obtain competitive advantage over its competitors in terms of saving cost related to recruitment and retention.
ICF defines coaching as:
Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment. Coaches honor the client as the expert in their life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole. Standing on this foundation, the coach’s responsibility is to:
- Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
- Encourage client self-discovery
- Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
- Hold the client responsible and accountable
This process helps clients dramatically improve their outlook on work and life, while improving their leadership skills and unlocking their potential (ICF, 2014).
In summary, coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching (Callwey, cited in Whitmore, 2002). The goal of a coach, in support of an individual maximizing their potential is to build self-awareness, responsibility and self-brief.
Developing Creative Self-Efficacy Through Coaching
Most people are born creative. In many cases all an individual needs is to rediscover their creative confidence – the natural ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out (Kelley and Kelly, 2012). This often involves getting behind fears: fear of the messy unknown, fear of being judged, fear of the first step, and fear of losing control that hold an individual back from utilizing their creative abilities (Kelley and Kelly, 2012). A coach can work with a client to transcend the fears that block their creativity, starting with exploring underlying beliefs. It could be by simply asking the question: What belief, opinion, or judgment could you be reinforcing about your creative ability? By understanding their underlying belief about their creativity, the client has the ability to actively choose the behaviors that will support their creative self-efficacy.
Another area that may need to be explored is their self-doubt about their creative abilities. Again, by asking a question such as: What judgments are you making that might be creating doubt about your creativity? A client can begin to explore ways they can create a perspective of trust and confidence about their creative abilities.
Finally, there are four factors that lead to the development of self-efficacy (Gist & Mitchell) that a coach can leverage in helping their client develop their creative self-efficacy. Each factor is identified below and includes examples of what a coach can do to help develop an individual’s creative self-efficacy.
|Enactive Mastery (Performance Outcomes) – This factor is the repeated performance accomplishments of an individual. This factor is the most influential of all four factors when it comes to the development of self-efficacy (Gist, 1987). These performance outcomes are often based on personal experiences. When an individual does well their self-efficacy rises. Conversely, when an individual does poorly their self-efficacy lowers. A negative outcome could also push an individual to work harder to achieve better results the next time around.|
|Vicarious Experience – This factor is sometimes known as modeling. Modeling is observing of others performing a task and developing ones self-efficacy off the effectiveness of the model (Gist, 1987). Studies have worked with the idea of self-modeling where videotapes have been taken of an individual and edited to only show the positive results of a task. The research has shown that this idea of self-modeling has been successful in raising self-efficacy (Gist, 1987). As with enactive mastery, if the model performs positively, self-efficacy goes up; when the model does poorly, self-efficacy drops.|
|Verbal Persuasion – This factor is simply verbal encouragement. It is believed that verbal encouragement raises self-efficacy while verbal discouragement can lower it (Gist, 1987).|
|Physiological Arousal – This final factor involves an individual’s perception of their physiological state. This individual uses this perception to access how capable they are at performing the given task (Gist, 1987). Let’s think about this in terms of public speaking. Say an individual gets up to give a speech and their palms start to sweat and their stomach begins to turn. This individual might perceive that these physiological cues are telling the individual that they are not capable of giving this speech. Therefore, their self-efficacy would be lowered.|
Rising complexity and globalization today point to the need for deliberate creativity if an organization is going to thrive. An individual’s ability to think creatively and to facilitate creative thinking in others is seen as a core competency of a leader and one that is underdeveloped. Coaching individuals in developing their creative self-efficacy – an individual’s belief in their ability to be creative in a given situation – can be a powerful tool to develop this core competency. This can be achieved via partnering with a client to explore underlying beliefs and their self-doubt about their creative abilities. Finally, a coach can leverage the four factors leading to the development of self-efficacy, outlined in this research paper, to develop creative self-efficacy.
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