Rethinking the Control–Freedom Paradox in Innovation: Toward a Multifaceted Understanding of Creative Freedom

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In this article, we argue for the reconceptualization of the control–freedom paradox in managing and motivating innovators. We call for conceptually separating managerial control and the consideration of organizational benefit, and caution that treating them as synonymous can lead managers to protect innovators from the very factors that support their intrinsic motivation. We draw attention to the dual motivational drivers of innovators, namely personal interest and organizational benefit, and discuss how they interact in defining the level of innovators’ intrinsic motivation toward creative efforts. In so doing, we draw attention to the paradoxical nature of creative freedom: While the need to contribute to organizational benefit sets boundaries for creative action taken in an organizational context, it is simultaneously essential for the sense of autonomy experienced by innovators. Our findings contribute to the paradox studies of innovation, creativity, and innovation management, research on the complexity of intrinsic motivation as well as studies of change processes in organizations.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62–87
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Applied Behavioral Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Research areas

  • creativity, innovation, motivation, paradox, tension, change

ID: 14995149