Inspiring Creativity in Diverse Organizational Cultures: An Expatriate Integrity Dilemma

Organizational culture (OC) is posited to be ‘the pattern of variations within a society, or, more specifically, as the pattern of deep-level values and assumptions associated with societal effectiveness, shared by an interacting group of people’ (Martha, Carolina, Joseph, Niels, & Pei-Chuan, 2002, p. 276).
Although, the concepts of OC, employee creativity and integrity have distinctively received numerous attention over the years, much is yet to be done to deepen insights into how expatriate top management leaders (ETML) may deploy their integrity in order to further bolster employee creativity (Ba Banutu-Gomez, 2002Ogbeibu, Senadjki, & Gaskin, 2018aPeng & Wei, 2018). 

Likewise, the literature on what role(s) ETML integrity actually play(s) under distinct OC dimensions is sparse, and thus signals for deeper attention (Blunt & Jones, 1997Ogbeibu, Senadjki, & Peng, 2018b).

While OC, employee creativity and integrity have been individually exemplified across several multinational enterprises (MNEs), ETML yet struggles to drive an increased employee creativity in light of differing influences of disparate OCs (Auernhammer & Hall, 2013Peng & Wei, 2018). 

Given their substantive significance, MNEs in developed and developing economies such as the USA, Canada and Malaysia are beginning to accord increased considerations to the phenomenon of OC, employee creativity and ETML integrity (Abugre, 2018Chien & Ann, 2015Dong, 2002Huston & Sakkab, 2006Peterson, 2005).

However, in a developing economy like Nigeria, probable benefits of according sufficient attention to the OC, ETML integrity and employee creativity phenomenon is yet to be reaped. As far back as the 1950s to 1960s, Nigeria was known to be at the same level of innovative development with countries such as Pakistan, Brazil, Indonesia and even Malaysia. However, recent reports show that Nigeria ranks below them all (Cornell University, INSEAD, & WIPO, 2015Egbochuku, 2001).

Nigeria has also fallen behind several other African countries such as Mauritius, Ghana and, even, Botswana, in terms of its innovations and creativity capability (Cornell University, INSEAD, & WIPO, 2016). Likewise, Nigeria does not even appear among over 139 countries highlighted in the 2015 Global Creativity Index (GCI; Ogbeibu et al., 2018a).
Dimnwobi, Ekesiobi, and Mgbemena (2016) accentuate that MNEs play a major role and could be capable of reviving Nigeria’s creative economy. MNEs grounded on manufacturing are also engines for national innovation growth and increased economic wealth (Ikemefuna & Abe, 2015). MNEs present platforms for engendering employee creativity and increased innovativeness (Popoola & Fagbola, 2014). Yet reports show that manufacturing performance in Nigeria has terribly underperformed in recent years. Before the late 1980s, the Nigerian central bank ranked the creativity prowess of the Nigerian manufacturing sector at 78.8 per cent.

Over the years, it has further seen a growing deterioration and has fallen to about 29.3 per cent (Ogbeibu et al., 2018a). Gabriel and Kpakol (2014) and Ogbeibu et al. (2018a) posit that one major reason for this decline is the application of unsupportive OC to engender employee creativity, and several MNEs are known to adopt and employ a major hierarchy form of OC (Owoyemi & Ekwoaba, 2014). Moreover, studies (Gupta, 2011Julia, Daniel, & Raquel, 2016) lament that this evokes a negative impact on employee creativity.

The phenomenon of employee creativity occurs at an individual level and deals with the conception of creative ideas, building upon existing philosophies and proffering innovative approaches to produce original solutions (Ogbeibu et al., 2018b).

Further, employee creativity is useful for ensuring an organization’s short- and long-term survival (Peng & Wei, 2018). Employee creativity consists of an employee’s expertise, creativity skills and task motivation (Amabile, 1997). Employee creativity requires a constant flow of creative ideas in order to be continuously engendered (Gilson & Litchfield, 2017). Although, in several MNEs in Nigeria, creative ideas are often repressed and/or lost as ETML are often unreceptive to them (Akume & Abdullahi, 2013).

Studies (Adeyeye, Adeniji, Osinbanjo, & Oludayo, 2015Ejimabo, 2013) accentuate that several ETML often exhibit less or lack the integrity required to show the anticipated level of support towards employee creative ideas. This has caused employees to often willfully suppress their ideas and refrain from exchanging them. Mayer, Davis, and Schoorman (1995) opined that integrity deals with an awareness of the trustor that a set of standards and values that is found to be acceptable by the trustor is strongly adhered to by a trustee.

In this regard, ETML ought to have a repute of strong integrity that is observable via credible reports and past actions. ETML demonstration of strong integrity is also expedient to drive the willingness of employees to commit towards creative ideas exchange that can engender employee creativity (Konanahalli et al., 2014Peng & Wei, 2018).

Studies (Hoch, 2013Palanski & Vogelgesang, 2011), thus, advocate that integrity has a positive effect on employee creativity. Yet it is important to note that ETML integrity may reflect distinct effects when strongly exhibited under diverse OC dimensions, and this may often be due to the interplay of values among organizational members (Campbell, 2004). Cameron and Quinn (2011), therefore, advocated four distinct OC dimensions which are clan, adhocracy, market and hierarchy, respectively. This was reflected in their competing values framework (CVF).
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