If the best art is done because of passion, not money, how can we reward creativity?
Artwork is of higher quality when we’re not paid to create it. But is there any way to support creative work without reducing quality?
The support must reinforce intrinsic motivation. Good examples are recognition, helpful feedback, and time, freedom or resources to pursue exciting ideas.
In one of Amabile’s own projects, for example, college women were asked to make paper collages. Half the subjects were told their collages would be judged by graduate art students; the others were told that researchers were studying their mood and had no interest in the collages themselves. When the collages were then evaluated by a panel of artists, those produced by the subjects who expected to be judged were significantly less creative. Other studies showed that virtually any external attempt to constrain or control the work results in less creativity. Just being watched is detrimental. Even being offered a reward for doing the work results in less creative output than being offered nothing.
All these results were replicated many times. But other studies, going in other directions, were finding something else. Extrinsic motivators were of many types, not all of them controlling, and some of them seemed to enhance creativity. Specifically, extrinsic motivators that reinforce intrinsic motivation could work quite effectively. Like what? Recognition that confirms competence turned out to be effective. While the mere expectation of being judged tended to reduce creativity, personal feedback could actually enhance creativity if it was the right kind—“constructive, nonthreatening, and work-focused rather than person-focused,” in Amabile’s words. That is, feedback that helped a person do what he or she felt compelled to do was effective. Even the prospect of direct rewards, normally suffocating to creativity, could be helpful if they were the right kinds of rewards—those “that more time, freedom, or resources to pursue exciting ideas.” These findings prompted Amabile to revise her hypothesis: Intrinsic motivation is still best, and extrinsic motivation that’s controlling is still detrimental to creativity, but extrinsic motivators that reinforce intrinsic drives can be highly effective.
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