The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work. If you're a manager, she argues, then understanding and nourishing your staff's "inner" life is key to productivity and success--and specifically supporting progress and meaningful accomplishments, even in small steps, can make the greatest difference. Check out her video here, as she explains what helps people get more deeply engaged and satisfied with their work.
Amabile personally made a great difference in my life by introducing me to the field of creativity (who knew there was a field?) when I was still a teenage sophomore at Brandeis. Her pioneering research and writing (her Creativity in Context broke new ground as a comprehensive review of decades of key creativity studies) was so impressive that Harvard Business School soon snatched her up as one of their own. Before they did, though, I decided to take her "Psychology of Creativity" course, which changed my life. If you'll indulge me for a paragraph...
I still remember the feeling of the state Amabile would call "intrinsic motivation," as a class assignment led me to spend nights roaming the library, highly stimulated by ideas for perhaps the first time in my life. For my final paper and class speech, I felt so compelled to make an ambitiously-wide-ranging case about work and creativity that I sought out writers in different domains to see where they would lead me. I read social theorists and philosophers who had something to say about conditions for creativity--there was Dewey and Weber and Marx and others--and started to make direct connections between their conclusions and the findings of the psychological studies we were reading about in class. My wordy masterpiece, "The Stifling of Creativity in Work in Our Society" (yes, I still remember), was pretty good, but the speech I gave was, I believe, my best work as an academic, delivered with no-notes-needed passion and breaking the rules of academia (When I finished my diatribe, with smoke still coming out of my ears, I remember the stunned and lengthy silence in the room until the sole graduate student asked, "Do you have statistical evidence for this?"). When years later I learned that Amabile did not remember this greatest-student-speech-of-all-time, I realized the impact was made primarily on me, but it was, indeed, a lasting one. In any case, thank you, Teresa.
Amabile's The Progress Principle (written with her husband Steven Kramer) is distinguished by what she does best--unparalleled research, clear-eyed analysis and cogent writing full of evidence-based and practical human-centered principles. For the last several years, Amabile has been focusing on the workplace, using research findings to help guide leadership in organizations in ways that best leverages the talents, motivations and creativity of the humans who work there. This book is a culmination of reviewing, coding and making sense of more than 12,000 journal entries from the work trenches.
"Of all the events that can deeply engage people in their work," she says, "the single most important is simply making progress on meaningful work." Managers can best boost positive inner work life, she explains, by reviewing and supporting people's progress everyday--which might sound simple but is more often ignored. Even small wins can yield "significant work life benefits," and the book reviews other influencers, catalysts and inhibitors that impact inner work life. Just like she did for me personally years ago, Amabile once again convincingly makes the case for how best to engage and inspire, and foster the conditions for optimal creativity and productivity in ourselves and others.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
During the past few weeks, I've had the honor and challenge and pleasure of stirring up creativity with large groups in a range of settings. Check it out:
Last week, I designed and hosted a game show for a 100 Federal Reserve employees, which we called "Who's Got the Biggest Fed Head?" (email me for an audio clip of our theme song!), testing the knowledge and collaborative abilities of teams in an interactive format. As I've written previously, most people would be shocked to learn that our too-often maligned Federal Reserve embraces creative thinking and new approaches in service of innovation, learning and improving. For the game show, I brought a percussionist, and we couldn't help wink at the irony of walking through the crowd of Chicago protesters, beating on their little drums, as we carted in two large congas to play for the actual Fed employees, most of whom, from what I can tell and from what Bernanke himself said recently, sympathize with the protesters. By the way, that's a $100 bill tie I'm wearing (left).
I just got back from West Virginia, where I facilitated an innovation session for an energy consulting firm (Leonardo Technologies; check out the cool stuff they're working on). In addition to exploring innovation and creativity through interactive exercises, we also discussed the importance of passion--how to empower employees to pursue their own creative talents and interests--and brainstormed possibilities for new clients and areas to expand their worthwhile work of shifting the energy paradigm in our country.
|Stirring it up with kids and parents|
I also had a chance to stir it up with younger groups recently, as a speaker for 750 kids at a middle school assembly and as part of the Malaise County Fair project I've been developing with a creative cast this past year. For Malaise, we had our first public performance with families as part of a fall festival here in Chicago, where we tested out new ways for an audience to participate musically and otherwise. As those of you who know me know, I'm dedicated to helping all of us be creators and not just spectators, and Malaise County Fair continues to experiment with breaking down the wall between performers and audiences in new ways.
Next week, I'll be at it with another innovative program for kids, Poetry Pals, which brings together children of different faiths (in this case, kids from Muslim, Catholic and Jewish schools) to learn from each other and write poetry together. We're always looking for volunteers to help us with this program, so please email me if you're interested in fostering interfaith relations with us.