Class Lecture | July 2012

The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work

by Teresa M. Amabile

Abstract

What really makes people happy, motivated, productive, and creative at work? Professor Amabile's research, based on analyzing nearly 12,000 daily diaries of team members working on collaborative projects, reveals some surprising answers. Inner work life—a person's day-by-day emotions, perceptions and motivation—has a profound effect on the person's creative productivity. And, of all the good things that can boost inner work life, the single most important is simply making progress on meaningful work—even if that progress is a small step forward. This is the Progress Principle. Its implication? Sustained creative productivity and employee well-being depend less on elaborate incentive systems or performance-management processes than on techniques for facilitating the small wins that constitute daily work progress.

Keywords: employee motivation; fostering performance; improving creativity; The importance of progress; employee attitude; enhancing work life; improving productivity; inner work life; Motivation and Incentives; Working Conditions; Creativity; Performance Productivity; Attitudes; Employees;

Citation:

Amabile, Teresa M. "The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work." Harvard Business School Class Lecture 813-701, July 2012.