Stop Bribing Creators to Try to Increase Creative Productivity


Because creativity is driven by intrinsic motivation
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Can you increase the creative output with incentives?

Is there a correlation between creative productivity or the ability to innovate and incentives?

The Incentive Myth argues that the quantity and quality of creative work can be increased by bigger incentives — monetary or otherwise. Because incentives will increase motivation and hence increase creative productivity.

It sounds true, right? This was the framework many organizations were using to increase their profit:

→ First, give incentives

→ Next, increase motivation

→ Then, increase creative productivity

→ After that, increase output

→ Finally, increase profit

→ Ultimately, give more incentives to increase the profit even more.

However, this is not the case anymore. Because it’s not true at all!

David Burkus says in his book, “These organizations have found little correlation between creative work and the size of an incentive. Instead, these companies and nonprofit groups alike are seeking out talented individuals and finding ways to encourage their creative genius without traditional incentives.”

Psychologist Teresa Amabile conducted a research, How to Kill Creativity,’ and found that:

People will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself — not by external pressures.

Extrinsic motivators like money, fame, recognition, status have been shown to have a minimal impact on creativity at best, and a detrimental effect at worst.

The reality is that intrinsic motivation such as challenge, learning, meaning, purpose drives creative output. And unless a reward is matched with our intrinsic needs, it will have little or no impact.

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