Creativity on a creative endeavour simply because of

Creativity is today
seen as an essential aspect of business. A key reason for its importance is
that it is required across many different sectors, in many different jobs. Often
in businesses, the implementation of new ideas, processes and products is
pivotal, so innovation is needed on a regular basis. Amabile et al. (1996) discuss
the link between creativity and innovation, defining the former as “the
production of novel and useful ideas in any domain” (Amabile et al, 1996,
p.1155), and the latter as “the successful implementation of creative ideas
within an organisation.” (ibid.) They state that creativity is necessary for
innovation, so it must be developed and encouraged in workplaces where
innovative ideas are a priority. However, creativity is described as a
“necessary but not sufficient condition” (ibid.) for innovation, as there are
social factors which have an influence. This is where motivation comes into
play.  In this report, I look at different
concepts and theories on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for creativity, primarily
focussing on the research of Theresa Amabile. Taking these into consideration,
I will the discuss how they may be applied in an innovation-driven business

motivation is the motivation to work on a creative endeavour simply because of the
fulfilment, challenge or personal development taken from it. Henle (1962)
described creativity as coming with a “detached devotion,” (Henle, 1962, in
Collins and Amabile, 1999, p.299), characterised as intense passion and commitment,
combined with a critical detachment, engaging mentally with the task; this is
intrinsic motivation. Winner of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physics, Arthur
Schawlow, attributed the difference between scientists with higher and lower
levels of creativity to the “labour of love aspect,” (Amabile, 1997, p. 39)
which is needed to accompany talent. Extrinsic motivation can be seen to be
harmful (Collins and Amabile, 1999, p. 299) as it is defined as external
factors and pressures, such as monetary awards, competition and evaluation.
There are many accounts of ‘creative geniuses’ who were phased and affected by
external pressures. One example is Einstein, who was deterred for a year from
his scientific study, due to the “dampening effect of a militaristic classroom
environment.” (Amabile, 1997, p. 40)

The difference
between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is explained by Amabile in a helpful
analogy of a maze. The maze has different options for exit: one straight,
easier path out, and then more creative routes, requiring more exploration. If
somebody is extrinsically motivated, they will take the easier, step-by-step
route, as they are not that involved in the task, and are focussing on the end
result. If somebody is intrinsically motivated, they will take the longer route,
enjoying the process, not just focussing on the end. They will explore the
“problem space” further, taking a more unusual and creative route. (Collins and
Amabile, 1999, p. 303) This longer route actually gets a higher quality, more
creative end result, highlighting the ‘Intrinsic Motivation Principle’
(Amabile, 1997, p. 39), stating that intrinsic motivation is a better driver of
creativity, so should be utilised in businesses which value innovation.

Whilst intrinsic
motivation is a better driver of creativity, Amabile does not explain actually
why it is more effective and enjoyable. Csikszentmihalyi (1996) looked at this, from
a psychological perspective. Through studying creative people and personalities,
he found that creativity is primarily motivated by a feeling called ‘flow’ –
“an almost automatic, effortless, yet highly focussed state of consciousness.”
(Csikszentmihalyi, 1996, p. 110). Characteristics of
‘flow’ include having: a balance between challenge and skills, a lack of
self-consciousness, a distortion of time, and no worry of failure. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996, p. 111-113)
The final characteristic mentioned shows how, when intrinsically motivated, one
does not concern oneself with thoughts of failure, success, or other extrinsic
factors. The individual focusses solely on the task. Csikszentmihalyi looks further, discussing
two internal
forces within us all: entropy and creativity. Entropy, or laziness, is what
guides many people, and we are “torn between two opposite sets of instructions
programmed into the brain.” (Csikszentmihalyi , 1996, p.110) More
creative individuals are, due to genetic programming, able to overcome the
entropy. They challenge ideas and strive to reach for the ‘flow’ feeling.  Csikszentmihalyi does not list any
extrinsic motivators as a part of ‘flow’, instead saying that external forces
can distract, showing that true enjoyment and creativity stems from intrinsic

As mentioned in the
introduction, intrinsic motivation and creativity is not quite enough to produce
useful, innovative ideas. Amabile’s Componential Theory of Individual
Creativity lists different components required for the process of innovation. (Amabile,
1997, p. 42) The first is ‘expertise’ – the “foundation for all creative work”
(ibid.). It involves memory for facts, technical proficiency, and talent in the
specific domain, for example science, management, or artistic skills. To
innovate, one must have domain-relevant knowledge of the field. (ibid.) The
second component is ‘creative thinking skill’, because one must be able to
think critically to see new pathways, ideas, and methods through which
expertise can be applied. This is a cognitive skill which is better or worse
depending on certain personality traits. The skill involves the ability to
solve problems, apply knowledge and form new cognitive pathways. It requires a
certain style of working which is “conducive to persistent, energetic pursuit
of one’s work.” (Amabile, 1997, p.43) This cognitive skill can be trained,
through learning and practicing techniques which improve “cognitive flexibility
and intellectual independence.” (ibid.) The final component of this theory is ‘intrinsic
task motivation”, a key aspect as, without intrinsic motivation, a person may
not have the will to carry out the task in full. The first two components make
possible a certain creative outcome, but the third draws them all together, and
is needed for an individual to actually complete the task or process.

Although intrinsic
motivation is a better driver of creativity, extrinsic motivation can also play
a part. Through her theory of ‘Motivational Synergy,’ Amabile discussed how the
social, external environment of an individual can have a significant effect on
“both the level and the frequency of creative behaviour.” (Amabile et al, 1996,
p. 1155). These social factors are a source of extrinsic motivation, and a key
word is ‘Synergy,’ as the theory describes a combination of intrinsic and
extrinsic motivation. There are certain determinants which decide how well they
combine, and whether extrinsic motivation will help or hinder the creative
process.  The first determinant is the
initial level of intrinsic motivation. External factors, such as criticism or
pressure, can reduce somebody’s effectiveness and motivation, but if one is
fully committed, their intrinsic motivation being “strong and salient”
(Amabile, 1997, p. 45) negative extrinsic factors will not reduce their
creativity. The second aspect is the type of extrinsic motivation – whether it
is informational, enabling or controlling. An example of an informational
extrinsic motivator would be reward and constructive feedback, helping and
guiding, not pushing and being unfair. An enabling motivator would be resources
to complete a project, and supervisory support. However, being controlling is a
“non-synergistic extrinsic motivator” (ibid.), and would not combine with
intrinsic motivation. Examples are unrealistic goals and destructive feedback. The
final determinant of the use of extrinsic motivation is the timing. In early
stages of the creative process, when free thinking and novelty is necessary, an
external interruption could be detrimental. However, at less creative stages,
such as gathering large sums of data or workshopping and prototyping a product,
external factors and assistance may be useful.

As part of her
research into intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, Amabile studied their effects
in real life work environments, looking at the company ‘High Tech Electronics
International,’ comparing creative and non-creative work environments. The tool
of the assessment was called ‘KEYS: Addressing the Climate for Creativity,’
used with the aim of assessing “perceptions of all the work environment
dimensions.” (Amabile, 1996, p. 1155) ‘KEYS’ looks at environmental stimulants and
obstacles to creativity. Managers were asked to rate projects of varying levels
of creativity, to see the impact of these stimulants and obstacles. The study
found a clear indication that the work environment significantly influenced the
creativity of work produced. (Amabile, 1997, p. 50) The most influential
factors included positive challenge, work group supports, supervisory
encouragement and organisational impediments. (Amabile, 1997, p. 49) These
results display the effects of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation,
supporting Amabile’s theory of ‘Motivational Synergy.’

So how can this be
applied in business and management? Amabile and Kramer (2012) called management
the “foe of innovation,” if it does not take into account what is needed for
creativity and innovation. Business managers should be aware of the
motivations, working with people with a true passion for the work, and should pay
attention to how that passion may be combined with external factors and support.
Workplaces should be open, allowing for fair judgement, development of skills
and mutual support, avoiding negativity. (Amabile, 1997, p.55) Pressure should
be managed carefully – it should not be put on unduly, with unfair time
pressure or competition, but it should put on to the right extent through
providing a positive challenge in work, giving employees tasks that are
“optimally challenging…meaning it’s tough, but their skills are up to the task.” (Amabile
and Kramer, 2012)

The key for motivating
creativity and innovation in an organisation is maintaining the correct balance,
so extrinsic factors encourage and enable existing intrinsic motivation. The
aforementioned factors, combined with a workplace orientation to creativity and
new ideas, should make the most of both motivations, and create the right work environment
for innovation.