Want More Creativity?

“The desire to do something because you find it deeply satisfying and personally challenging inspires the highest levels of creativity, whether it’s in the arts, sciences, or business.” -Teresa Amabile ‘The Progress Principle’

In their book the Progress Principle, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer provide leaders with vital research and ideas to enhance and improve the overall environment and culture of their organizations. Ideas and research founded in what they call an “inner work life”.   It is this “inner work life” that not only affects the overall effectiveness, productivity and happiness of individuals within an organization, but the organization itself.

According to Amible and Kramer…”Inner work life is the confluence of perceptions, emotions, and motivations that individuals experience as they react to and make sense of the events of their workday.” Amabile and Kramer go on to add…”Inner work life is not a fixed state. It is the dynamic interplay among a person’s perceptions, emotions, and motivation at any point during the workday. Because the three elements influence each other to create an overall subjective experience, then means that inner work life is a system, a set of interdependent components that interact over time.”

Which means that…”When something happens at work – some workday event – it immediately triggers the system: the cognitive, emotional, and motivational processes.”

So what this means, what Amabile and Kramer are putting forth is that all three…”perceptions, emotions, and motivation are so tightly interwoven” that if you affect one, it affects the other two as well.   Each one affects the other, so if one area, say emotions is affected, then the effectiveness of the other two areas are impacted, as well. Which can work in both the positive, and the negative.

So what Amabile and Kramer are saying to leaders, is that if you want better productivity, if you want more successful and happy people and organizations, if you want better work environments and cultures…then you need to be aware of and tend to the “inner work life” of those you lead.

However, it does not behoove us to end there.  For their research on “inner work life” has ramifications beyond just happy and successful people and organizations.  “Inner work life” can either enhance or neutralize two very important and vital necessities of successful 21st century organizations; creativity and innovation.

What Amabile and Kramer spotlight in their research is that creativity is high when all three areas (emotions, perceptions, motivation) are positive in a person’s “inner work life”.

What Amabile and Kramer’s research in the Progress Principle is emphasizing is that when leaders create an environment where people have more positive emotions, better perceptions, and stronger intrinsic motivation…we will have more creativity and better productivity across the organization.

Let’s take a look at some of their findings in each of those three areas in regards to creativity…

  • Emotions – Amabile and Kramer saw a “definitive connection between positive emotion and creativity”. Their research found that “the more positive a person’s mood on a given day, the more creative thinking he did that day.” And it is not just in that day, Amabile and Kramer also found a “surprising carryover effect showing that creativity follows from positive emotion. The more positive a person’s mood on a given day, the more creative thinking he did the next day – and, to some extent, the day after that.”
  • Perceptions – Amabile and Kramer discovered that “creativity was higher when our study participants had more positive perceptions of their work environment – from the highest levels of management and the entire organization, to their own jobs.” Which is very important for leaders, as people were more creative and innovative when they saw their organization and the leadership as positive…as well as creativity and innovation dropped when they viewed them from a negative stance.
  • Motivation – Amabile and Kramer found that “people are more creative when they are driven primarily by intrinsic motivators.” Which goes along with the work of author Daniel Pink, in that intrinsic motivation has shown to bring out more creativity, while extrinsic motivators has had a negative effect on the creativity of people and organizations.

Amabile and Kramer provide us with some strong research on not only ways to raise the level of productivity in our organizations, but how to increase and unleash creativity and innovation, as well.

When we tend to the “inner work life”…creating more positive emotions, enhancing people’s perceptions, and tending to the intrinsic, as opposed to extrinsic motivators…we will have a much better opportunity to unleash the productivity and creativity of our individuals and our organizations.

References and quotes from…

Amabile, Teresa. Kramer, Steven. The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work. 2011. Harvard Business Review Press.


One thought on “Want More Creativity?

  1. I really appreciate how you’ve unpacked the ideas & applied them so concretely to everyday life at school. It somehow makes creativity more accessible rather than something that others do but not ourselves.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s