How to Kill Creativity


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Reading Notes On: an article
by Teresa M. Amabile
Harvard Business Review
Sept-Oct 1998

Published in: Business, Education
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How to Kill Creativity

  1. 1. How to Kill Creativity by Teresa M. Amabile Harvard Business Review Sept-Oct 1998
  2. 2. <ul><li>Ideas must be appropriate, useful and actionable </li></ul><ul><li>Thinking imaginatively is only one part of the creative equation </li></ul><ul><li>Two other essential components are expertise and motivation </li></ul>Expertise Motivation Creative Thinking Skills What is Business Creativity? Creativity
  3. 3. What is Business Creativity? <ul><li>Expertise </li></ul><ul><li>(Knowledge: technical, procedural, intellectual) </li></ul><ul><li>Encompasses everything that a person knows and can do in the broad domain of his or her work </li></ul><ul><li>Knowledge and technical abilities </li></ul><ul><li>Intellectual space used to explore and solve problems </li></ul><ul><li>Creative Thinking Skills </li></ul><ul><li>How people approach problems and solutions </li></ul><ul><li>Thinking Styles </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Turns problems upside down </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Combines from seemingly disparate fields </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Personality </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Comfort with disagreeing with others </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Departs from status quo </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Work Styles </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Persevere </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Incubation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fresh perspectives </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. What is Business Creativity? <ul><li>Extrinsic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Root of creativity problems in business </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Comes from outside a person (either a carrot or a stick) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Most common is money </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Doesn’t stop people from being creative </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Doesn’t help either </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Doesn’t by itself make employees passionate about their work </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Intrinsic </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Person’s natural interest to do something </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Engaged in work for the challenge and enjoyment of it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Work itself is motivating </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People most creative when interested, satisfied and challenged by work itself </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Motivation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>passion and interest </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>determines what people will actually do </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>different types have different impact on creativity </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Managing Creativity <ul><li>Managerial practices and techniques that affect intrinsic </li></ul><ul><li>motivation will affect creativity yield more immediate results </li></ul><ul><li>Challenge </li></ul><ul><li>Freedom </li></ul><ul><li>Resources </li></ul><ul><li>Work-group features </li></ul><ul><li>Supervisory encouragement </li></ul><ul><li>Organizational support </li></ul>
  6. 6. Managing Creativity – Six Practices <ul><li>Challenge </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Simple task of matching people with the right assignments </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Most effective practice </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Perfect matches stretch employees abilities </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Amount of stretch is crucial </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Not so little, bored </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>No so much, overwhelmed and threatened </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Requires rich and detailed information about employees and available assignments </li></ul></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Managing Creativity – Six Practices <ul><li>Freedom </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Autonomy concerning the means </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>More creativity, if allowed to decide how to climb mountain </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Clearly specified strategic goals often enhance people’s creativity </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Clarity and stability of goals meaningful period of time </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Autonomy heightens intrinsic motivation and sense of ownership </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Must grant autonomy in more than name only </li></ul></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Managing Creativity – Six Practices <ul><li>Resources </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Time </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Can heighten creativity </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Along with importance of work, people feel that they need to rush </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Increases intrinsic motivation by increasing sense of challenge </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Fake deadlines and impossibly tight ones create distrust and burnout </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Creativity takes time, needs incubation and exploration </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Funding, People and other resources </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Adding more resource above “threshold of sufficiency” does not boost creativity </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Below that threshold restriction can dampen </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>When resources kept tight, people channel creativity into finding additional resources </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>May be helpful for open and comfortable </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Managing Creativity – Six Practices <ul><li>Work-group features </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Create mutually supportive groups with a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Different expertise and creative thinking styles often combine and combust ideas in exciting and useful ways </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Diversity is only starting point, team members must </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Share excitement over the goals </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>display a willingness to help their team mates through difficult time periods and setbacks </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Recognize the unique knowledge and perspectives that other members bring to the table </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Requires that managers have a deep understanding of their people (i.e. their knowledge, potential, work and problem solving styles and motivational hot buttons) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Homogenous teams are a creative danger </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Reach solutions more quickly, with less friction and high morale </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Do little to enhance expertise and creative thinking </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Come to table with same mind set; leave with the same </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Managing Creativity – Six Practices <ul><li>Supervisory encouragement </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Praise for creative efforts (not just creative successes but unsuccessful efforts) falls by the side </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Intrinsic motivation comes from passion for their work </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sustainability for this passion, people must feel their work matters </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Freely and generously recognize creative work by individuals and teams </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Look for reasons to explore new ideas further </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Work to eliminate the negative bias of a culture of evaluation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Leads people to focus on external rewards </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Creates a climate of fear </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Treatment of those whose ideas don’t pan out </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Perception of no “failure value” correlates to less experimentation, exploration and connection with work on personal level </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Serve as a role model </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Managing Creativity – Six Practices <ul><li>Organizational support </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Creativity is truly enhanced when the entire organization </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>supports it by </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Emphasizing that creativity is top priority </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Put in place appropriate systems or procedures </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Reinforce values that emphasize this priority mindset </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Mandating information sharing and collaboration </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ensuring that political problems do not fester </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  12. 12. From the Individual to the Organization <ul><li>Key Success Factors for Leading/Obtaining Creativity Culture </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Forming Teams </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Make excellent matches between people and assignments </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Relatively small (4-9 members) </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Diverse professional and ethnic backgrounds </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Communication with and within Teams </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Clarify goals at the outset </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Periodic checks on workflow direction </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Autonomy (real freedom) to teams for day-to-day operations and implementation of goals </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Support to Teams </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Team members mutually supportive </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Supervisory encouragement and organizational support must be widespread </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Seek support from all units within their divisions and encourage collaboration across all quarters </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Great Rewards and Risks <ul><li>Great Rewards </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Radically change the ways in which we build and interact with workgroups </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Calls for conscious culture change </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Great Risks </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Lose a potent competitive weapon: new ideas </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Lose energy and commitment of its people </li></ul></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Suggested Readings <ul><li>Creativity in Context: Update to the Social Psychology of Creativity by Teresa M. Amabile (1996) </li></ul><ul><li>User’s Manual for KEYS: Assessing the Climate for Creativity by </li></ul><ul><li>Teresa M. Amabile, Robert Burnside, and Stanley S. Gryskiewicz (1998) </li></ul><ul><li>Rosabeth Moss Kanter on the Frontiers of Management </li></ul><ul><li>by Rosabeth Moss Kanter (1997) </li></ul>
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