Culture and Creativity in Multicultural Teams
- Angela K.-y. Leung, Angela K.-y. LeungSingapore Management University, School of Social Sciences
- Brandon KohBrandon KohSingapore Management University, School of Social Sciences
- and Sean T. H. LeeSean T. H. LeeLecturer at James Cook University
The Complementary Model of Culture and Creativity (CMCC) puts into perspective how a culturally diverse team can become more creative than a monocultural team. The CMCC characterizes three bidimensional psychological processes that explain the effects of culture on creativity: (a) stereotyping versus destabilizing cultural norms, (b) fixating on one cultural mindset versus alternating between cultural frames, and (c) distancing from versus integrating cultures. Extant research suggested that teams with similar goals and values draw performance benefits from their ability to cooperate. However, research has also revealed that working with culturally dissimilar team members could lower tendency toward groupthink and diversify knowledge, skill sets, and social networks, which can facilitate the team’s creativity. Therefore, a question of growing importance to both researchers and practitioners alike is how to harness cultural diversity within creative teams to promote their creative performance while minimizing conflict. We examine this important question with the perspective offered by the CMCC. The processes delineated in the CMCC explain that multicultural teams offer the opportunities to broaden and diversify team members’ cultural experiences by destabilizing cultural stereotypes, switching between cultural frames, and integrating differing cultural perspectives, thereby generating discernible creative gains. It is challenging to effectively manage and maintain workforce diversity, but it is highly rewarding if these challenges are turned into opportunities to build an inclusive and equitable multicultural labor force. The CMCC illuminates the key mechanisms through which multicultural teams can trigger the knowledge creation and diffusion processes to instigate higher creativity among team members coming from diverse cultural backgrounds.