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3 Keys to Creative Innovation

Many industries are increasingly moving toward a “knowledge economy.” The stock-in-trade is ideas. Creative solutions to problems can be as important—sometimes even more important—than physical goods and services.

How can organizations foster creative innovation? A recent large-scale analysis of employee creativity, including more than 50,000 workers from all around the world, has identified 3 key factors to creative innovation.

1. Intrinsic motivation

Motivation tends to come from one of two general places.

  • Extrinsic motivation comes from outside the person. For example, people might be motivated to do something for money, prizes, or even just respect.
  • Intrinsic motivation comes from within. For example, people might be motivated to do something because they just find it interesting or enjoyable.

Intrinsic motivation tends to put employees in a more creative mindset, and thus they produce more creative innovations (and extrinsic motivation often undermines this process).

2. Creative self-efficacy

Self-efficacy is the belief that you are capable of performing.

Creative self-efficacy is the more specific belief that you are capable of creating and innovating in a given context. This is especially important when employees need to invest lots of time and effort to create something, progress is slow or uncertain, or there are setbacks along the way.

Creative self-efficacy leads some people to persist, whereas others might give up. The result is that employees who really believe in themselves tend to produce more creative innovations.

3. Prosocial motivation

Prosocial motivation is a desire to help other people. Employees with more prosocial motivations tend to produce more creative innovations.

Employees who are more selfish are usually much less creative, too.

Of the three factors we just discussed, prosocial motivation is the most consistent driver of innovation across different national cultures and types of creative tasks.

It’s also the most overlooked.

The desire to help other people—your team, your organization, customers and clients—is a much stronger driver of creative innovation than the (more selfishly-oriented) rewards and incentives that organizations usually offer.