The internet is packed with artful pictures superimposed with concise, insightful quotes about creativity from Teresa Amabile, a creativity scholar at Harvard Business School. One of the best — “One day’s happiness often predicts the next day’s creativity” — seems like foolproof advice for both managers and creatives.

Amabile, a guest lecturer in the “Creativity Up Close” lecture series this spring, has dissected workplace creativity and constructed a model for ideal creative conditions. Her theory of creativity includes three components internal to the individual that are necessary for creative work.

The first two, expertise and creative thinking skills, encompass the knowledge, experience, talent and perspective necessary to generate new ideas, theories or products.

But it’s Amabile’s third component — motivation — that is her biggest contribution to creativity theory. “What I’ve discovered in my research,” Amabile explained, “is that intrinsic motivation is essential for high levels of creativity.” Intrinsic motivation is the drive to do something because of interest, enjoyment or a personal sense of challenge. The opposite form of motivation is extrinsic, which denotes taking action because you have to, you are being forced or because you are working for a reward.

Focusing on workplace culture and team dynamics, Amabile also identified a list of “creativity killers.” These include expected evaluations, feelings of being watched, working only for a reward, competition, tight restrictions on how work can be performed and an undue focus on extrinsic motivators.

“What I’ve tried to do in my research is look at what business organizations and managers can do to relieve the work environment of these extrinsic constraints to allow people’s intrinsic motivation and creativity to blossom.” 

Share