Incentives: Dulling or Enhancing The Creative Process?

What drives one person to succeed and achieve is likely to be completely different than what drives the next. Therefore, not surprisingly there is something to be said about lack of performance in the workplace. In an effort to combat this problem, employees are often offered incentives, increased pay or bonuses for example, in order to spark the flame of creativity and get the ball rolling on productivity. However, what most leaders do not realize is that incentives are scientifically proven to dull thinking and hinder creativity. Scientists report that while incentives seem like the most logical way to boost productivity, not only are they unreliable but they also harm the process.

Daniel Pink, thought leader and author of A Whole New Mind and his new book Drive, about motivation in business, was one of the speakers at last year’s TED Conference. This link is a glimpse into some of his findings on Motivation and worth the 20 minutes to watch. He talks about how there is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. After some compelling examples and insights, he concludes that motivators seem to work only in surprisingly narrow circumstances; that incentive rewards often thwart rather than enhance creativity; and that unseen intrinsic drive to do something that matters is the key to high performance.

From a creative’s perspective, I can relate. While an incentive (financial or otherwise) seems nice, what really drives this shop is to dive into an issue, diagnose it properly and come up with the best solution. Check out the TED video featuring Pink.



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