30% according to a new study. The thesis is there needs to be a balance between those who conceive and those who execute. This ratio probably falls out of the way we manage companies.

It might sound like an impossible question, but Stefan Leijnen and Liane Gabora at the University of British Columbia in Canada have created a clever mathematical model that offers an answer.

Their key insight is that creative ideas can only spread if they’re actually adopted by others. Too much creativity, and there’s not enough imitation–ideas die on the vine, because there are so many of them and few ever catch fire. For good ideas to spread, there’s an optimal balance to be reached between creating and imitating.

Leijnen and Gabora modeled that dynamic, and they found that to optimize the profusion of good ideas, we should spend less than 50% of our time on creativity. If some individuals spend all of their time creating new ideas, then they shouldn’t comprise any more than 30% of a population. via FastCompany

Span of Control

Span of control is an organization behavior term that defines the number of reports a manager has. Theory has it that the “optimal” span of control is 6. If you assume an organization has three layers (CEO, middle management and employees) following this theory, then there will be 7 leaders (CEO plus mid-managers) and 36 employees. Assume as well that the management are the creators and the employees the executors, approximately 1 in 6 employees are creators or 17%.

According to this analysis, there should be at least one employee inside each employee group who is focused on creativity. Does that seem right?

At Google, we had everyone bringing some creativity to the table: engineers, marketers, operations managers. Balancing creativity and execution is always a challenge (and a fun one), but I doubt there are any rules that determine what kind of “creative” allocation should be made.

It will always be a function of company stage, product stage and team members.




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