Reframing the decision-makers' dilemma: Towards a social context model of creative idea recognition

Jennifer Mueller, Shimul Melwani, Jeffrey Loewenstein, Jennifer J. Deal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Can decision-maker roles-roles with responsibility for allocating resources toward ideas-shape which ideas people in those roles view as creative? Prior theory suggests that expertise should influence creativity assessments, yet examples abound of experts in different roles disagreeing about whether the same idea is creative. We build and test a social context model of creative idea recognition to show how decision-maker roles can shift creativity assessments. In an experimental study, we show that relative to nondecision- making roles, decision-making roles inculcate an economic mindset and so lead to downgrading otherwise creative ideas with cues of low social approval. A quasiexperimental study triangulates and extends this finding showing that organizational decision-making roles can habitually evoke an economic mindset that shapes creativity assessments. In both studies, decision-maker role, economic mindset, and social approval levels were unrelated to idea usefulness ratings. By integrating work on organizational roles, economic mindsets, and implicit theories of creative ideas, we provide a broadly applicable theoretical framework to describe how social context shapes creativity assessments. This work has important implications for the creativity and innovation literatures, and suggests a new interpretation of the longstanding puzzle of why organizations desire but often reject creative ideas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-110
Number of pages17
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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