Motivating Creativity in Organizations: On Doing What You Love and Loving What You Do

by Teresa M. Amabile

Arthur Schawlow, winner of the Nobel prize in physics in 1981, was once asked what, in his opinion, made the difference between highly creative and less-creative scientists. He replied, “The labor of love aspect is important. The most successful scientists often are not the most talented. But they are the ones who are impelled by curiosity. They’ve got to know what the answer is.” Schawlow’s insights about scientific creativity highlight the importance of intrinsic motivation: the motivation to work on something because it is interesting, involving, exciting, satisfying, or personally challenging. There is abundant evidence that people will be most creative when they are primarily intrinsically motivated, rather than extrinsically motivated by expected evaluation, surveillance, competition with peers, dictates from superiors, or the promise of rewards. Motivating creativity is possible.

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