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How to harness creativity and be über productive, part one.

July 22, 2012

I just watched an excellent TED talk.

Often these 20 minute speeches leave me fist pumping and raucous alone in my bedroom, but this one was particularly engaging. So good I threw my panties at my laptop and blew inelegant, slobbery kisses to the orator. I had just been ruminating on this exact topic – how do we best facilitate productivity and sharpen our creative spears? Dan Pink came to my rescue.

Dan Pink on Motivation <——– Click Here to view.

Although Dan (ex speechwriter to Al Gore) talks from a business perspective, his findings apply to all of us undertaking right-brain-type endeavours. His message is clear; reward-based incentives to produce our best work, are proven INEFFECTIVE. In fact, the larger the material reward offered to finish a task faster, more efficiently…the WORSE the result.

The carrot on the stick model it seems, is efficacious for donkeys; not for humanoids.

For jobs requiring an analytical, left-brained approach, ‘rewards’ can positively influence our motivation to make like Jackie Chan and karate-chop our way to glory. If the route to a solution is quite basic, linear…sure; the allure of a gift upon completion can inspire us to just get on with it.


But for those of us inhabiting the swampy subjectivity of our right brains, being plied with a ‘treat’ only freaks us out and turns the cold tap on creativity. This kind of work craves a wider mental net, one that can be cast without the pressure of time! competition! money!

The solution? Dan uses three terms to describe a model intended to coax out superior productivity.




Basically, when one is free to undertake self-directed learning, creating and problem-solving, the quality of the result soars. 

The drive to do things because they matter to us is the most motivating force of all. Not millions of dollars, mountains of bling or an abundance of bitches.

No, to squeeze the goodness from a person, run them through the juicer of Autonomy, add a knob of Mastery and serve them up in a big jug full of Purpose.

Did you know that Google dedicates one day a week to staff working on their own projects? Some of the best ideas have been borne of companies following suit, setting their staff loose to ramble and frolic in meadows of their own design.

How do we make sense of this approach?

I fear this is another one of those big, overarching rainbows of fundamental life hoo-har. Like, it necessitates doing what it is you love, in the way that you feel most comfortable, within the realm of your own creative cunning. It means not being bribed with material rewards for pumping out an essay at warp speed, fulfilling a design brief or meeting a company deadline. All these tasks may be compulsory, but the mode of completion is open to revision. They need space to breathe, free from reward-induced asthma.

Finding an angle that provokes passion; gazing upon a finished product that in itself, gratifies.

This may seem fanciful, but like most things in life, the best are those borne of love.

In part two, I’ll be discussing more specific ways to enhance daily productivity, supporting the flow of creative juices. In the meantime, what do you all think of this ‘reward vs. self-direction’ approach? Is it true for you?

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 22, 2012 7:33 pm

    Yet another amazing post! Love it!

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