Caneel Joyce, PhD 09

Assistant Professor
London School of Economics & Political Science

With its sleek, sustainable design, the London School of Economics' (LSE) New Academic Building is the perfect home for a burgeoning management department and for Caneel Joyce, PhD 09, whose passion for innovation led her here from her native California last September.

 

"I wanted to be in a city where I'd have access to all sorts of creative industries," explains Joyce, 31, who finished her dissertation, on the effects of constraint on creativity, before she began teaching at the LSE. "This is a very supportive environment—the LSE teaches you how to teach—with an exciting, growing department."

 

Currently preparing several papers for publication, Joyce teaches organizational behavior and change courses, summertime executive education, and is building an experimental lab with colleague Connson Locke, PhD 08. Before deciding to pursue a career in academia, Joyce worked in marketing and advertising after graduating from UCLA in communications.


"I was frustrated at not being able to make my ideas go anywhere, plus the economy had tanked," says Joyce, explaining her decision to leave advertising and marketing and earn a PhD at Haas.

 

"I'd always been interested in creativity, but it wasn't until my third year at Haas that I knew I wanted to study how constraint affects decisions made in the creative process, partly to help me understand how to better manage my own ideas," she continues. "Everything in my field felt really interesting and important, so I needed to find some way to enjoy eliminating some of my ideas and focusing on just a few. My hunch was that there's got to be something good about constraint that I wasn't seeing because I hated constraining myself but recognized that I needed to—I always want to pursue every idea."

 

In her extensive reading on psychology and organizational behavior, Joyce found a paradox: too much choice can be bad for decision-making, but people need freedom to be intrinsically motivated. Her hypothesis, that a moderate level of constraint is best, was validated by her six-month high-tech experiment involving 274 participants at Haas, and by data she collected in Haas' new product development class. Her findings have valuable applications for business.


"Many companies that want to make themselves creative take on the 'anything goes!' freedom ethic, but they don't really know how to live 'anything goes,'" Joyce says. "Creative industries value focus. If you let people do anything, they'll do the safe thing. But if you tell them, 'generate ideas about anything you want, within this box,' they explore that box with greater depth and consider ideas that otherwise would appear too strange at first glance."




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