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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rewarding Creativity: 3 Lessons on When it Works | Leif Denti, Innovation Management

It is well known that intrinsic motivation -- the kind that comes from working with a task because it’s interesting, involving and challenging -- has the strongest relationship with individual creativity. Extrinsic motivation -- especially based on monetary rewards -- has a detrimental effect on creativity. But is this really true?
That statement and question (highlighted) are explored in this article.

Citing a couple of research studies, Denti discusses the issue in three "lessons."

Lesson 1 is about "the right kind of jobs":
[O]ther evidence point to the fact that creativity can be appropriately rewarded in organizations. It’s all about which kind of people the organization is trying to motivate and which kinds of jobs or tasks they work on.
Rewards can motivate employees in routine jobs with little individual control, Denti says, by providing feedback to the employees and giving them a sense of value for the work they do.

Lesson 2 is about "the right kind of people":
Yet in line with the conventional line of thought, Baer and his colleagues (2003) found that individuals who were already very motivated in the first place were slightly negatively affected by extrinsic rewards.
Lesson 3 is about "the right kind of creativity" (emphasis added):
Another line of research indicates that it is important to reward a certain kind of creativity. If ideas of high quality and originality are rewarded, individuals are more likely to come up with high quality ideas in subsequent tasks.
In his conclusion, Denti says rewards can stimulate creativity "under the right circumstances," but they could lower the creativity of "highly motivated employees."

He writes:
[M]anagement should be cautious when planning reward systems tailored toward increasing organizational creativity. The reward system must be tailored to 1) the job at hand, especially the degree of job complexity, 2) the kind of people who work on those jobs, and 3) the kind of creativity that the organization is striving towards.
For more articles on this topic, check out Garbl's Creativity Resources Online.

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