When you were a child in school there were certain teachers that fostered an environment where individuality and creativity could flourish while others stifled individuality and wanted every student to act and behave in the same way. The same goes for the corporate world. There are organization can create an environment in which creativity can be enhanced, there are others that can stifle and kill creativity. So how can you be a business that encourages creativity? Is it through rewards, punishments, bonuses… or is it something deeper and more personal? Perhaps it’s finding employees who love their jobs because they enjoy the job itself and not because the pay is good. If someone loves what they do then they will do it well.
The “labour of love aspect” discussed by Nobel Laureate, Arthur Schawlow, is highly intrinsic in nature. People will be most creative when they are motivated by intrinsically interesting aspects of the work itself such as interest, enjoyment, challenge and satisfaction rather than reward structures which are extrinsic incentives. You are most creative when you are doing something you enjoy and not when you have to do it or are doing it simply to get a paid.
So let’s understand ways that businesses can crush creativity. Teresa M. Amabile lists six ways of killing creativity. These six factors when imposed can affect creativity in a negative manner and undermine the process of creative thinking.
- Expected evaluation: Creative people do not operate well under the fear of evaluation of their performance. Under such evaluation system, they would be more concerned as to how their work will be evaluated and their concentration is on the expectation of the evaluator. Creative people cannot work creatively under such restrictions. They must get the feeling that they are working for themselves rather than for someone else.
- Surveillance: People who are conscious of being watched as they are working will be less creative. Lack of surveillance does not necessarily mean that creative people are not accountable for their performance, but surveillance does cast a suspicious eye and this kills creativity. Creative people, even if they are being watched, should not be made conscious of it.
- Reward: Monetary and other rewards may be useful incentives to get people to work, but they almost never act as motivators. People who find themselves working primarily for a tangible reward will become less creative. Highly creative people are more interested in self recognition and satisfaction rather than outside recognition or other tangible benefits.
- Competition: People who feel themselves to be in direct threatening competition with others in their work will be less creative. The creative thinker would be more interested in matching the competitor in order to alleviate any threat from him for his position and this will limit the freedom to explore new areas.
- Restricted choice: The creative people must be free to think their own ways of handling situations and solving problems. The freedom of how to do work is the most important feature of environment that support high creativity. People who are restricted in their choices in how to do a task are less creative. This restriction of choices may be the most destructive factor in creativity.
- Extrinsic orientation: All those people who are led to think about all the extrinsic reasons for doing what they are doing are less creative. These extrinsic reasons range from extra financial incentives to status, medals, recognition or promotion. Highly creative people have more of intrinsic reasons in doing what they are doing. They want to be involved in their work because it brings them joy and happiness.
If you want your business to thrive you need to look at how you motivate your staff and the tools you used to encourage productivity. If you look for creative people who are good at what they do and love what they do then you’ll find the creativity they can bring to your company will be far greater than the initial expectation you had about the position. Check out this TedxAtlanta talk by Teresa Amabile who talks about the “crisis of disengagement” occurring in the workplace today.