To Stoke Creativity, Crank out Ideas and Then Step Away

From ScienceDaily:

There is an effective formula for unlocking employees’ creative potential, according to new research from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin and the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Employers should incentivize workers to produce an abundance of ideas — even mediocre ones — and then have them step away from the project for an “incubation period.”

The researchers found that people who were rewarded simply for churning out ideas, whether good or bad, ultimately ended up producing more creative ideas than people who did not receive pay incentives or those whose pay incentives were based on the quality of their ideas instead of the quantity. All the study participants stepped away from the initial task for a time and returned to it later.

“Creativity is not instantaneous, but if incentives promote enough ideas as seeds for thought, creativity eventually emerges,” said Steven Kachelmeier, the Randal B. McDonald Chair in Accounting at Texas McCombs and co-author of the study in the Accounting Review.

It has been well established in the academic literature that creative performance is enhanced by an incubation period, but this research looked at a new question: What happens when you add incentives for idea generation to the equation?

. . . .

It has been well established in the academic literature that creative performance is enhanced by an incubation period, but this research looked at a new question: What happens when you add incentives for idea generation to the equation?

. . . .

Some participants were offered pay based on the number of ideas they generated, some only for ideas that met a standard for creativity, and others a fixed wage of $25, regardless of the quantity or quality of their puzzle ideas.

Initially, none of the incentivized groups outperformed the fixed-wage group in measures of creativity, as judged by an independent panel. Creativity incentives, it would seem, do not work instantly. But in a subsequent return to the creativity task 10 days later, those who had originally been paid to come up with as many ideas as they could had “a distinct creativity advantage,” outperforming the other groups in both the quantity and quality of ideas, Kachelmeier said.

Having an incubation period after participants put their minds to work was key to their success, the researchers said.

Link to the rest at ScienceDaily