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Team Creativity At Work I and II: Creative Problem Solving At Its Best
Edward Glassman, PhD : Nurture The Creative Flame at Work

Nurture The Creative Flame at Work

By Edward Glassman, PhD

Most people agree there's a great deal of fun in being creative. Not so much HA HA fun as there is AHA fun. Creative people who do not experience this at work often become "weekend creatives" and focus their creative energy on weekend pursuits, not on work.

I have met many full-time employees who are "weekend creatives." These people engage in these engrossing activities in addition to their full-time jobs. The most famous weekend creative is Albert Einstein, who perfected his theory of relativity while working as a clerk in the patent office in Bern, Switzerland. Are any of the people in your team engrossed as weekend creatives? If so, don't you want to recapture these energies for creativity in your team at work?

Here's a clue. Research has shown that people turn out work that is more creative & innovative if they are internally motivated. That is, if they focus their attention on their daily enjoyment and the challenge of their work.

For creativity to be high, they need to see the novelty in the work, their own self-competence and self-direction, and feel they are engaging in play rather than work. They need to have a sense that they are working for self-satisfaction on a self-discovered problem in which they have many choices, especially on how to do the job. For creativity & innovation to flourish, they need to feel a lot of curiosity and interest.

If you want the people in your team to be more creative, do not distract them from these internal motivators. Do not dangle external motivators in front of them on a daily basis. Instead focus their attention, and yours too, on the daily enjoyment, novelty and challenges of the work. Give them as many choices as you can, especially on how to do the job. Invest in high job stability to encourage risk taking, the core of creative & innovative enterprise at work. Help them feel they are engaging in play rather than work.

I have been told about one manager who would greet his people with "Are you having fun today?" If they answered yes, he would ask them to share their fun with him. If they said no, he would ask what he could do to help them have fun. This approach helps people focus on their internal motivators, not on external motivators. External motivators consist of reward and punishment, evaluation and time pressure, external competition, high control and restricted choices, things that take people's focus off the enjoyment of internal motivators.

Of course, it is necessary to give salary raises, promotions, and honors. We all want these rewards. Yet, we allow external motivators to spoil creativity by overwhelming internal motivators, the daily enjoyment, challenge, and self-satisfaction of the work.

Help creativity & innovation in your team at work by focusing people's daily attention on these internal motivators. Help self-direction flourish and watch creativity soar. Unfortunately, we still use external rewards to motivate at work, and devalue the intrinsic reasons, the daily enjoyment and challenge.

In a small research project, I asked people to fill out a questionnaire. One statement to be completed is "When I am creating, I feel....."

The response of about 450 people are revealing. Almost all used words like excited, fulfilled, joyful, good, enthusiastic, insightful, stimulated, enjoyable, intense, fun, happy, delighted. They wrote being creative made them feel good, satisfied, useful, energetic, alert. Other answers were felling challenged, worthwhile, energized. Interestingly, less than 3% listed negative feelings, mainly because of anticipated negative reactions from colleagues.

These comments are important. First, one way to introduce enjoyment and satisfaction in work is to allow people to be more creative as problem solvers on the job.

Second, the sheer enjoyment of creative thinking provides an important, personal reason to be creative. So stop distracting people with long-range external motivators like salary raises and bonuses and promotion. Of course, you cannot do away with these rewards, but you can help people focus the daily work on their enjoyment inherent in on-the-job creativity, and not on long-range rewards. •

© 2010 by Edward Glassman. All rights reserved.

Edward Glassman, PhDEdward Glassman, PhD was the President of the Creativity College®, a division of Leadership Consulting Services, Inc., and Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he headed the Program For Team Effectiveness And Creativity. More »

5/11/10