Creativity Can Be Learned…and Enhanced with Rewards

November 9, 2011

According to the July 2011 issue of the Journal of Marketing, creativity is best enhanced through a combination of training and reward. Despite popular belief that creativity is innate, studies have shown that taking just one course to boost your creativity by learning new skills can have a profound impact on your ability to think outside the box.

But course instruction alone is not enough. According to University of Virginia professor James E. Burroughs and his colleagues, those study participants that combined both training and an incentive produced the best results.

When reporting on the study’s findings, Strategy + Business says: “In tandem, rewards and training can enhance, rather than diminish, employees’ intrinsic motivation, which in turn helps them produce more creative ideas.”

I have to agree.

Real-life case study

Yesterday I was commissioned to play a desperate housewife (again – are we seeing a theme here?!) for a TV show. Whenever I get nervous, I guess my American accent is enhanced. Getting put under pressure by the TV crew wouldn’t have helped. They smiled, said “Try it again,” then let me breathe. While I’m not sure I nailed it perfectly (what is perfection anyway but the guaranteed route to a life of hell?), I used what I have learned in meditation practice and concentration. It showed me that training, combined with an incentive (being paid at the end of it and recognized for my language talent), led to stronger results than if the director had crushed me front and center.

Tony Schwartz, author of  Be Excellent at Anything,  pointed out four desctructive myths that most companies follow in a recent Harvard Business Review blog post.

Myth #1: Multitasking is critical in a world of infinite demand.

Anyone who follows this blog knows what I think about that. But in case you just landed here, multitasking is a myth. It’s counterproductive and a waste of time. Period.

Myth #2: A little bit of anxiety helps us perform better.

If the director had screamed at me (which one did in my very first speaking role on TV), we would probably still be sitting there trying to nail the scene. We finished within the hour.

Myth #3: Creativity is genetically inherited, and it’s impossible to teach.

As the above study proves, creativity can be learned. Really!

Myth #4: The best way to get more work done is to work longer hours.

We all know that a well-rested worker is a productive one. If we had sat in that TV studio yet another hour, the result wouldn’t have been any better.

So how can you be creative today? In what ways can you foster that inner artist? We all have one. Sometimes it takes a gentle hand…or in this case voice, to bring out our best.

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One Response to “Creativity Can Be Learned…and Enhanced with Rewards”


  1. Oh, give me some honest positive feedback and that dragon will be history, that mountain will be toppled and that molehill…well, he will just be appreciated for what he is.


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