What Makes a Creative Team Player? A Social Dilemma Perspective on External Regulation and Creativity

March L. To*, Catherine K. Lam, Xu Huang, Rajiv K. Amarnani

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Creativity is important for a group’s success, and thus, groups often demand that their members contribute creativity by setting up group goals. Group goal external regulation arises when individual members feel that their behavior is externally initiated and enforced. While research from the self-determination perspective suggests that such external regulation undermines creativity, emerging research also suggests the opposite: external regulation has motivational functions boosting creativity. To integrate these seemingly contradictory perspectives, we developed a contingency model (based on social dilemma theory) to explain the impacts of group goal external regulation. Specifically, conceiving creativity in the individual-group context of multiple goals, we suggest that group goal external regulation can prompt or hinder individual member creativity, depending on their individual goal progress (“concern for me”) and group identification (“concern for us”). We found support from two studies that when group identification is high, individuals demonstrate higher levels of creativity, irrespective of their individual goal progress and group goal external regulation experienced. When group identification is low, individuals demonstrate more contingent responses—that is, external regulation is positively (negatively) related to individual member creativity when their individual goal progress is poor (good).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-688
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Business and Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychology(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Creativity
  • External regulation
  • Group identification
  • Social dilemma


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