Education Creation Group

What's My Motivation?

Motivation is defined as a theoretical construct used to explain the initiation, direction, intensity, and persistence of behavior, especially goal-directed behavior (Maehr, & Meyer, 1997).


Brophy (2004) describes motivation as the students’ willingness to invest attention and effort to learn.


Most literature links creativity with intrinsic motivation. The school setting, however, complicates motivational challenges. Teachers are expected to accept the goals of the organization and seek to develop strategies and solutions regardless of whether they enjoy the activities or would choose to engage in them if other alternatives were available.


Florida (2003) suggests that most everyone has creative potential and is occasionally involved in spontaneously satisfying activities because they are interesting, enjoyable, or positively challenging. This is the intrinsic motivation principle of creativity: “Intrinsic motivation, defined as the drive to do something for the sheer enjoyment, interest, and personal challenge of the task itself is conducive to creativity” (Hennessey & Amabile, 2010, p. 581).


Research on extrinsic motivation and creativity is mixed with some concluding that extrinsic motivation hampers creativity (e.g., Amabile, 1985; Kruglanski, Friedman, & Zeeyi,1971) and others suggesting the relationship is more complex (e.g., Baer, Oldham, & Cummings, 2003; Mumford & Hunter, 2005). Amabile (1983) and Deci and Ryan (1985) conclude that extrinsic motivation lessens creativity by reducing intrinsic task or project interest. What is clear, however, is that, while extrinsic rewards may hamper innovation, intrinsic motivation plays a strong positive role in creative performance.


Work environment dimensions stimulate and impede creative work by teams of individuals. Work environments have ten dimensions as they are presented in the KEYS® survey, an instrument that measures the degree to which employees perceive their work-environment as stimulating and impeding their creativity: Freedom, Challenging Work, Managerial Encouragement, Work Group Supports, Organizational Encouragement, Organizational Impediments, Resources, Workload Pressure, and two outcomes - Creativity and Productivity.


A particularly powerful stimulant comes from the provision of employee freedom to decide what to do or how to accomplish a task. Closely related to freedom is autonomy, which is described as having a sense of control over one’s own work and ideas, has received the most attention from researchers and theorists (e.g., Abbey & Dickson, 1983; Albrecht & Hall, 1991; Amabile & S. Gryskiewicz, 1987; Andrews & Farris, 1967; Bailyn, 1985; Ekvall, 1983; Monge & Cozzens, 1992; Pelz & Andrews, 1966; Paolillo & Brown, 1978; Siegel & Kaernrnerer, 1978; West, 1986). When teachers and students perceive they have the freedom to decide what projects or work they are to do, they perceive their work climate as stimulating to their creativity.


Historically, researchers explained intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in units or amounts. Self Determination Theory (SDT) describes motivation as autonomous or controlled. Amabile et al., (1996) conducted a study of investment banking companies and suggested that managers who were more supportive of autonomy had employees who experienced greater basic psychological needs satisfaction, were more engaged in their work, sensed little pressure to meet some else’s expectations, and had a greater sense of control over their own work, evidenced by greater well-being, and they had higher performance ratings than did employees without autonomy supportive managers (Baard, Deci, & Ryan, 2004).


Conditions supporting Self Determination Theory (SDT) are believed to foster the highest quality forms of motivation and engagement for activities, including enhanced performance, persistence, and creativity (Deci

& Ryan, 2008). In addition, when individual’s or group’s psychological needs are unsupported or thwarted within a social context will have a robust impact on wellness and people will lose their sense of freedom and sense of control over their own work and/or projects (Ryan, Deci, 2000).


Affective responses to work affect individual motivation, creativity, and productivity. Amabile and Kramer (2007) affirmed, in their study The Big Deal Project, that people performed better when their workday experiences included more positive emotions, stronger intrinsic motivation (passion for the work), and more favorable perceptions of their work, their team, their leaders, and their organization, and when they felt a sense that they had challenging and important projects. When Amabile and Kramer  (2007) compared people’s best days with their worst, the most important differentiator was being able to make progress in their work. Positive emotion was tied to higher creativity, and negative emotion was tied to lower creativity. Across all 26 teams studied, people were over 50% more likely to have creative ideas on the days they reported the most positive moods than on other days.


When employees are tasked with working hard on challenging and important projects self-efficacy has a direct influence on task completion. In addition, self-efficacy expectations determine how much effort people will expend and how long they will persist in the face of  obstacles and aversive experiences. A stronger perception of self-efficacy leads to more active efforts (Bandura et al., 2010; Bandura et al., 1975). Psychological procedures, whatever theirform, alter the level and strength of self-efficacy. Bandura (1977) suggests that personal efficacy

is derived from four principal sources of information: performance accomplishments, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and physiological states. The more dependable the experiential sources, the greater are the changes in perceived self-efficacy. Amabile and Kramer (2007) extended Bandura’s theory by including an affective response in tandem with a perceptual  response; “these effects of emotion and perception on motivation make perfect sense: if people are sad or angry about their work, they won’t care about doing it well” (pg. 79) and “If they are

happy and excited about it, they will leap to the task and put great effort behind it.


For a complete review of related literature - contact Dr. Audet