The Progress Principle and Creativity

I’ve been a BIG fan of Teresa Amabile for years.  Dr. Amabile is currently the Director of Research at Harvard University and has written extensively about creativity–what helps it and what hinders it.

She’s just published a jewel of a book called The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement and Creativity at Work.

By analyzing almost 12,000 diary entries provided by employees at multiple companies she examined the ‘inner work lives’ to determine what really matters to people at work.

The most powerful is ‘progress in meaningful work’.  But each of these factors, even when they appear in small events, can impact the engagement and creativity of an employee.  Negative events generally had a stronger impact than positive events.

In poignant quotes from these daily diaries Amabile gives examples of the nourishing and toxic behaviors that affect employee engagement and productivity.

She highlights Major Catalysts:

  1. Setting clear goals
  2. Allowing autonomy
  3. Providing resources
  4. Giving enough time–but not too much
  5. Help with the work (from anywhere in the organization)
  6. Learning from problems and successes
  7. Allowing ideas to flow

And behaviors that Nourish:

  1. Respect
  2. Encouragement
  3. Emotional support
  4. Affiliation

None of this information is earth-shatteringly surprising.  What makes this book sing is the small individual vignettes.  Yes, we know that disrespect and antagonism aren’t great but the stories demonstrate the lingering damage of those toxic behaviors.

The final chapter offers concrete advice for tending to your own inner life, including the habit of reviewing the day’s major events and the use of a checklist to manage to a positive balance.

A very good read.  Or get the highlights in her TED talk.

2017-04-17T12:20:52-07:00