Creative Education
2012. Vol.3, Supplement, 9-13
Published Online December 2012 in SciRes ( DOI:10.4236/ce.2012.37B002
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Assessing the Role of Individual Variables in Determining the
Research and Development Engineers’ Creativity
A Study in Electrical and Electronics Industry
Chengling Tan, Yali Hong
Graduate School of Business, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia
Received 2012
This study examined the direct effect of individual variables (self-esteem, creative self-efficacy, intrinsic
motivation and extrinsic motivation) on the Research and Development (R&D) engineers’ creativity. The
data were analysed based on questionnaires returned by 130 R&D engineers attached to fifteen Electrical
and Electronic (E&E) firms with R&D department in Penang, Malaysia. The convenience sampling me-
thod was employed in getting the samples. The results posited that all individual variables were positively
related to R&D engineers’ creativity. The results also reported that there is no significant difference in
R&D engineers’ creativity between contract employment type and permanent employment type. The
theoretical and practical implications of the study as well as suggestion for future studies were also dis-
Keywords: Creativity; R&D Engineer; Individual Variables; E&E Industry; Type of Employment
The global economy is becoming increasingly competitive.
Talent will be characterized as one of the important roles in
supporting Malaysia to realize the objective of propelling the
economy to a high income status. Therefore, the great attention
must be given to human capital that lies at the core of innova-
tion and a productive high income economy. In order to achieve
Malaysia’s aspirations, it is important to develop, attract and
retain a first world talent base. However, the 10th Malaysia Plan
(10MP) recognizes that Malaysia is facing severe human capital
deficiency problem. In conjunction with that, Talent Corpora-
tion (TC) is setup by Prime Minister of Malaysia, YAB Dato
Seri Mohd Najib, in 2011 to attract, nurture and retain talent
required for high income economy, which is in line with the
Economic Transformation Program (ETP). One of the key ac-
tivities from TC is to develop a collaborative initiative among
industries and government agencies to address talent require-
ment and demand in Malaysia.
Among the industries, Electrical and Electronic (E&E) in-
dustry is in the top of the list to kick start this collaboration
effort because it is an important contributor to the national
economy, accounting for RM37 billion in Gross National In-
come (6% of national GNI), 522,000 jobs and 41% of Malay-
sia’s total export in 2009 (Performance Management and Deli-
very Unit (PEMANDU), 2012). In addition, TC has a fast track
program involves apprenticeship with hands on experience
working on actual R&D projects at host companies, like Intel
and Altera, while it supplemented with formal training at Pe-
nang Skills Development Centre (PSDC).
Despite all exciting stack of R&D projects roaring to roll out,
too much time has been wasted without a proper appreciation of
developing skilled R&D engineers. From the global compari-
son, Malaysia’s Gross Expenditure for R&D (GERD) of RM
3.6 billion was ranked 37th from the National R&D survey
(2008). On the other hand, GERD/GDP ratio of 0.64 was
placed on 44th in the world. In comparison to Asia Pacific
countries like Taiwan, Singapore, China, India and Hong Kong
which accounted for 2.52, 2.36, 1.33, 0.84 and 0.74 respective-
ly, Malaysia has the lowest ranking. Big gap is observed be-
tween Malaysia and the neighborhood countries despite overall
Malaysia’s R&D performance still shows gradual growth.
There is always a room for improvement and more effort is
required to accelerate the current situation.
The R&D engineers’ capabilities to create, disseminate, and
apply knowledge are critical factors in determining the R&D
engineers’ creativity. The R&D engineers’ creativity includes
generating new (novel or adopted) ideas and solutions, devel-
oping new product and new method, and producing an applica-
ble prototype or model for the use of the organization. This
implies that E&E industry highly demand for the creative R&D
engineers to produce and develop innovation as well as, to help
this E&E industry to face the complexity of economic context
and to go over the competitors. Given the importance of R&D
engineers’ creativity in enhancing the E&E firms’ growth and
performance; examining the influencing factors in stimulating
R&D engineers’ creativity in order to bring the E&E firms
towards global competition is warranted.
In general, organization has widely recognized the influen-
cing factors such as individual, organizational and environ-
mental variables that will enhance R&D engineers’ creativity.
Therefore, this study aims to explore and focus on the influence
of personality factors that might help to increase the R&D en-
gineers’ creativity level. Positive personality factors, such as
self esteem, creative self efficacy, intrinsic motivation and ex-
trinsic motivation affects and fosters cognitive complexity,
creativity and innovation (Ford, 1996; Isen, 1999; Woodman,
Sawyer, and Griffin, 1993). Personality development which
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
refers to skills development and motivational enhancement,
have played a significant role in most of the organization no-
wadays. With the right skill set, it smoothen the interaction
between clients, co-workers and superiors. Subsequently, it
helps the employee to face any challenges with confidence and
positive approach (Barron and Harrington, 1981).
Literature Revi ew
R&D Engineers’ Creativity
Global society is facing challenges that require innovative
and practical engineering solutions. Survival of a company is
very much depended on the ability of its engineers to innovate
and stimulate their creativity, particularly in R&D. This is be-
cause the R&D engineers play a vital role in generating fresh
solutions to problems and creating new products, processes or
services for their company to sustain in this competitive edge.
Scholar has formulated explicit distinctions between two main
types of creativity, which are special talent (Maslow, 1962) and
self-actualizing (Sawyer, 2006). Special talent is ascribed to
people whose contribution is recognized by society (Sawyer,
2006). There is a myth that creativity is limited to several indi-
vidual who are naturally creative. Self actualizing, on the other
hand, is referring to collaborative, improvised, and it is influ-
enced by shared cultural knowledge and processes. Creativity is
a skill that can be learned and applied. Learning to be creative
is akin to learning a sport. It requires practice to develop the
right muscles, and a supportive environment in which to flou-
rish. In this study, R&D engineers’ creativity is termed as the
process of forming novel idea to solve problems and to increase
the efficiency (Amabile, 1983; Woodman, et al., 1993).
Individual Variables
Individual variables are conceptualized as personal resources
available to an individual (Gist and Mitchell, 1992). In this
study, four common individual variables which were widely
examined, namely self esteem, creative self efficacy, intrinsic
motivation and extrinsic motivation are determined as the pre-
dictors to R&D engineers’ creativity. Self-esteem is defined as
an individual’s judgment of one’s own value (Bandura, 1994).
Creative self efficacy refers to the belief that an individual has
the ability to produce creative outcomes (Walker, Greene, and
Mansell, 2006). Intrinsic motivation is regarded as encourage-
ment or motivation originating from an individual to increase
one’s satisfaction and competency to complete the task (Walker,
et al., 2006). Extrinsic motivation is termed as the encourage-
ment or external reward that brings expected behaviors and
performance (Maltzman, 1960).
Individual Variables and R&D Engin ee rs’ Creativity
Isen (1999) concluded that positive personality/individual
variables will foster cognitive complexity, creativity and inno-
vation. Personality development, in terms of skill development
and motivational enhancement, has a significant role in most of
the organization nowadays. With the right skill set, it smoothen
the interaction between clients, co-workers and superiors. Sub-
sequently, it helps the employee to face any challenges with
confidence and positive approach. A review of literature illu-
strates that individual variables comprise of four common di-
mensions (self esteem, creative self efficacy, intrinsic motiva-
tion and extrinsic motivation) that influence on the creativity.
Therefore, our main hypothesis is constructed as follows:
H1: Individual variables (self esteem, creative self efficacy,
intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation) are positively
related to R&D engineers’ creativity.
Self-esteem is crucial and as a cornerstone of a positive atti-
tude towards living. Self esteem elaborates the affective aspect
of self evaluation (Cheng and Furnham, 2004; Lightsey, Burke,
Ervin, Henderson and Yee, 2006). Having a healthy dose of
self-esteem allows individual to focus more on the pleasure of
being creative. Thus, the first sub-hypothesis is postulated as
H1.1: Self esteem is positively related to R&D engineers’
creati vi ty.
Creative self efficacy originated from the concept of self ef-
ficacy, which describes an individual belief on successfully
performing in a particular setting (Bandura, 1994). In short, the
employees tend to perceive opportunities to apply their creative
potential in the form of creative actions. Hence, the second
sub-hypothesis is presented as below:
H1.2: Creative self efficacy is positively related to R&D en-
gineers’ creativity.
Intrinsic motivation views creativity as self-motivated psy-
chological behavior that is triggered by intrinsic spiritual re-
wards (Deci and Ryan, 1985; Amabile, 1997; Hennessey and
Amabile, 1998). The main component of intrinsic motivation is
individual’s level of enthusiasm for the activity as it affects
one’s decision to initiate and sustain creative effort over time
(Amabile, 1988). Therefore, the third sub-hypothesis is conjec-
tured as below:
H1.3: Intrinsic motivation is positively related to R&D engi-
neers’ creativity.
Extrinsic motivation emphasizes on encouragement or ex-
ternal reward outside the self (Walker, et al., 2006). In line with
Deci and Ryan (1985), the relationship between extrinsic and
outcomes highly depends on the types of extrinsic motivation
involved. Especially in formalized tasks, extrinsic rewards are
seemed to be necessary to motivate employee creativity (Ama-
bile, Hennessey, and Grossman, 1986). Thus, the fourth
sub-hypothesis is formulated as below:
H1.4: Extrinsic motivation is positively related to R&D engi-
neers’ creativity.
Type of Employment as a Moderator
In general, there are two types of employment, namely per-
manent and contract. Different types of employment will affect
individuals’ actions as the reward system included in the con-
tract affects the efforts applied (Holmstrom and Milgrom, 1994)
and knowledge applied (Conner and Prahald, 1996). The rela-
tionship between employee and organization is materially dif-
ferent for contract and permanent employee. The perceived
obligation of loyalty in return of job security (contract and
permanent) forms a relational psychological contract between
worker and organization that has a link between the individu-
al’s commitments to the organization (Rosseau, 1990). Based
on past studies, contract employees place less priority on
job-related factor, such as creativity contribution and know-
ledge sharing (Wakefield, Curry, Mueller, and Price, 1987). On
the other hand, permanent employees are more likely act colla-
boratively in the interests of the organization than individually
in their own interest (Ohana and Meyer, 2010). As such, this
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
study conceptualize that permanent employment positively
moderate the relationship between individual variable and R&D
engineer’s creativity. Conversely, contract employment nega-
tively moderates the relationship between individual variables
and R&D engineer’s creativity. Thus, the hypotheses for this
study are formulated as follows:
H2: Types of employment moderates the relationship be-
tween individual variables (self-esteem, creative self-efficacy,
intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation) and the R&D engi-
neers’ creativity.
H2.1: Types of employment moderates the relationship be-
tween self-esteem and the R&D engineers’ creativity.
H2.2: Types of employment moderates the relationship be-
tween creative self-efficacy and the R&D engineers’ creativity.
H2.3: Types of employment moderates the relationship be-
tween intrinsic motivation and the R&D engineers’ creativity.
H2.4: Types of employment moderates the relationship be-
tween extrinsic motivation and the R&D engineers’ creativity.
The population of the present study will be the engineers
employed in the R&D organization in Penang, the main indus-
trial hub as well as being home to the Free Trade Zone. Based
on Invest Penang directory, there are 200 companies are in-
volved in the electrical and electronics sector (E&E). Of theses
200 companies, only 15 companies are with R&D facilities.
The questionnaires were sent to these 15 companies with in-
tended of 15 respondents from each company. The unit of
analysis is the engineer working in R&D organization. The
respondent will be sampled using convenient sampling method.
Profile of Respondents
Among 130 respondents, 51 are male (39.2%) and 79 are
female (60.8%). More than half of the respondents are married
(51.5%) while the rest are single (48.5%). Majority of the res-
pondents are Bachelor Degree holder (64.6%). It is then fol-
lowed by Master Degree holder (26.9%), PhD holder (6.9%)
and Diploma holder (1.5%). All the respondents are R&D en-
gineers (100%) with permanent employment type (89.2%) ex-
cept fourteen (10.8%) of them are under contract employment.
Descriptive Statistics
The mean score for R&D engineers’ creativity (M = 3.74,
SD = 0.70) are perceived to be moderate by most of the res-
pondents. And also, engineers in this study particularly gives
weight to intrinsic motivation (M = 3.93, SD = 0.60), followed
by self esteem (M = 3.75, SD = 1.05), extrinsic motivation (M
= 3.61, SD = 0.67) and creative self-efficacy (M = 3.57, SD =
Multiple Regression Analysis
Regression was conducted to test the hypotheses for this
study. Table 1 shows the regression analysis the results for
regression analysis of individual variables on R&D engineers’
creati vi ty. The four individual variables are able to explain 58%
(R² = 0.58, ΔF-value = 42.17, p < 0.01) of the observed varia-
tion on R&D engineer’s creativity. All four individual variables
are significantly contributed to the prediction of R&D engi-
neer’s creativity. Self-esteem (β = 0.16, p < 0.01), creative
self-efficacy (β = 0.2, p < 0.01), intrinsic motivation (β = 0.15,
p < 0.05) and extrinsic motivation (β = 0.59, p < 0.01), are sig-
nificant and have positive relationship with R&D engineer’s
creativity. Hence, the hypothesis H1, H1.1, H1.2, H1.3 and H1.4 are
strongly supported.
Moderating effect analysis was also conducted to analyze the
moderating role of type of employment. As shown in Table 2,
it seems that the type of employment does not moderate all the
relationship between individual variables (self-esteem, creative
self-efficacy, intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation) and
R&D engineer’s creativity. The interaction terms are insignifi-
cant, hence the R2 is maintained. In sum, hypotheses H2, H2.1,
H2.2, H2.3 and H2.4 are not supported.
Table 1.
Mean Scores and Standard Deviations for the Study Variables.
Variables Mean (M) Standard Deviation (SD)
R&D Engineer's Creativity 3.74 0.70
Individual Variables
Self-Esteem 3.75 1.05
Creative Self-Efficacy 3.57 0.58
Intrinsic Motivatio n 3.93 0.60
Extrinsic Motivation 3.61 0.67
Table 2.
Regression Results of the Relationship between individual Variables
and R&D Engineer’s Creativity.
Predictors Model 1 Model 2 Model 3
Std. β Std. β Std. β
Step 1: Individual R e late d Var iables
Self-Esteem (SE) 0.16** 0.14* 0.09
Creative Self-Efficacy (CSE) 0.20** 0.21** 0.06
Intrinsic Motivation (IM) 0.15* 0.16* -0.21
Extrinsic Motivation (E M ) 0.59** 0.61** 0.47
Step 2: Moderating Variables
Type of Emploment (EMP) 0.12* -0.63
Step 3: Interaction T erm
SE x EMP 0.08
CSE x EMP 0.22
IM x EMP 0.52
EM x EMP 0.17
0.58 0.60 0.60
Adjusted R ² 0.57 0.58 0.57
Δ R² 0.58 0.01 0.00
F-value 42.17** 35.45** 19.36**
Δ F-value 42.17** 4.15* 0.30
Note: * p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Discussion and Conclusion
All four individual variables were significant and positively
related to R&D engineer’s creativity. Extrinsic motivation (β =
0.59, p < 0.01), was found to be the strongest predictor. It was
then followed by creative self-efficacy (β = 0.20, p < 0.01), self
esteem (β = 0.16, p < 0.01), and intrinsic motivation (β = 0.15,
p < 0.05). Extrinsically motivated engineer will perform to
attain a desired grade or some other form of external rewards
like money and recognition. Tangible incentives, tangible re-
wards and opportunities for promotion act as means to recog-
nize engineer’s effort in tangible ways. In conjunction with
Abbey and Dickson (1983) study, the extrinsic motivation was
consistently correlated with R&D engineers’ creativity. Next on
the list was creative self-efficacy which highlighted that R&D
engineers must possess the required technical skills, confidence
and value orientation to be creative (Kirton, 1989). R&D envi-
ronment needs R&D engineers to be creative due to job com-
plexity. It is because R&D environment is in a setting which
creativity is a priority and creative routine performances are
closely linked. As such, the engineers conducting complex job
would have greater creative self-efficacy. R&D engineers with
high self-esteem believe that they will use the necessary capa-
bilities to perform the task successfully. These engineers are
likely to seek for challenges and adopt effective strategies to
mediate the challenges (Bandura, 1994; Zeldin and Pajares,
2000). They would not be hurt easily by criticism of their crea-
tive ideas. It aligns with the past researches, self-esteem was
positively related to creativity (Axtell, Holman, Unsworth, Wall,
and Waterson, 2000; Gist, 1989). Intrinsic motivation is recog-
nized as one of the core characteristics for engineer’s creativity
which relates to workplace creativity (Oldham and Cummings,
1996) as well as level of enthusiasm for the activity (Amabile,
1988). In short, with appropriate intrinsic motivational orienta-
tion for job involving creativity, the emergence of innovative
ideas and express more creativity will be enhanced.
Employment type did not moderate the relationship between
individual variables and R&D engineer’s creativity. One of the
possible explanations would be related to the type of job that
the engineer is working on. Additionally, one of the main cha-
racteristic of R&D job is that it is not a routine job. It is classi-
fied as job with high complexity (Hunter, Schmidt, and Ju-
diesch, 1990) and analytic work (Gottfredson, 1986). Every
R&D is different most of the time; otherwise organization
would not have invested. Thus, the engineers, regardless in
contract or permanent, who involved in the R&D would feel
challenging most of the time and continue to deliver quality and
creative performance. The result of this study offers several
suggestions to E&E organizations in Malaysia. In particular,
R&D managers could use the results from this study to instill
R&D engineer’s creativity by setting the significant personality
criteria while recruiting the new R&D engineers.
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