TO INFINITY, AND BEYOND? CAREER AGE, COGNITIVE STRUCTURES, AND CREATIVITY OVER TIME
While there is evidence that creativity varies across individuals’ professional careers, there is still little understanding of the reasons of this variation. Building on research on creativity, career trajectories and individual cognition, I develop a four-phase model of creativity variation. I propose that creativity variation is due to the change in intrinsic motivation and cognitive schemas across an individual’s career. In particular, I propose that intrinsic motivation follows an inverted U-shaped trajectory, while cognitive schemas become increasingly rigid and complex as career age grows. I then attempt to understand why different individuals follow different trajectories by focusing on individuals’ cognitive schemas and knowledge characteristics in terms of depth and breadth. I hypothesize that each knowledge dimension is more beneficial when it complements the effects of career age on schemas, providing individuals with schemas that are both complex and flexible. More specifically, I hypothesize that knowledge depth is more beneficial for creativity in earlier phases of one’s career, while knowledge breadth is more beneficial in later phases. I test and find support for these hypotheses in a longitudinal study set in the context of the Hollywood animation industry. Theoretical and practical implications of the results are discussed.