Teresa Amabile on the four components of creativity

AmabileIn one of her classic works, Creativity In Context: Update To The Social Psychology of Creativity (2006), Teresa Amabile suggests that creativity is influenced by four separate components: domain-relevant skills, creativity-relevant processes, task motivation, and the surrounding social environment. These determine whether or not a creative insight will occur.

o Domain-relevant skills (commonly called expertise) are the knowledge, technical skills, or talent an individual possesses in a given domain. These skills can be improved.

o Creativity-relevant processes are the methods people use to approach a given problem and generate solutions. These processes can be learned.

o Task motivation is the willingness to engage. Simply put, it is passion. Both expertise and creative methodology can be taught, but their presence is irrelevant without the motivation to work.

o The final influencer, social environment, is the only component that exists entirely outside the individual. The social environment of the firm is usually the hardest component to redesign; however, it may also be the most important, if (HUGE “if”) it is sufficiently understood.

According to David Burkus, in The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Create Great Ideas, “The elegance of Amabile’s model is that it is applicable in a variety of ways. These four factors can be used to adjust the positive or negative influence an organization has on the creativity of its members…This four-compoent model of creativity pulls back the veil on what many believe to be a mysterious and sacred endeavor.”

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Teresa Amabile is the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration and a Director of Research at Harvard Business School and co-author of The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work. Originally educated as a chemist, Teresa received her doctorate in psychology from Stanford University. She studies how everyday life inside organizations can influence people and their performance. Teresa’s research encompasses creativity, productivity, innovation, and inner work life – the confluence of emotions, perceptions, and motivation that people experience as they react to events at work.

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  1. NAOMI PHIRI on July 23, 2020 at 3:24 am

    This is lovely

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