Can’t buy it so inspire it

Work must be meaningful to keep people engaged enough to turn up each day and do their best. An understanding of what gives meaning – and drives high performance and creativity – should be part of every leader’s skillset, yet despite reams of credible research into motivation, it’s still not reflected in much corporate life. Take money and rewards. “Rewarding people for hard work is a great thing to do,” says executive coach Mark McGuinness, “but it’s no guarantee of loyalty (or) creativity.” Research by Harvard Business School’s Teresa Amabile and others has shown that relying on extrinsic motivation – rewards and punishments – has a negative impact on creativity. “When you’re focused on a reward, you’re not focused on the work itself,” he says. “You have to love what you do.”  Absolutely, concurs creativity expert Matt May in a review of Amabile’s latest book, The Progress Principle: Using small wins to ignite joy, engagement and creativity at work. “The secret to unleashing the creative potential of people is to enable them to experience a great inner work life,” May says, “and the single most powerful influence on that inner work life is progress in meaningful work.” High performance has four dimensions: creativity, productivity, commitment, and collegiality. Creativity is generating new and useful ideas, and “is the most important performance dimension, given the need for pathbreaking work in 21st century organisations”.

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