Teresa Amabile – Pioneer of research on organizational creativity

Teresa Amabile

Teresa Mary Amabile
(born June 15, 1950, Quincy, Massachusetts, USA)
Nationality: United States
Category: Scientists
Occupation: Psychologist, Professor
Specification: Professor and Expert in the Psychology of Creativity, innovation and motivation. Pioneer of research on organizational creativity, author of several influential books, including “The Social Psychology of Creativity”, “Creativity in Context” and “The Progress Principle.”
Gender: Female
Family: Married to Steven Kramer, also a psychologist and has two children.

Achievements and contributions:

Social and Professional Position: American Psychologist, Academic and Researcher. Edsel Bryant Ford and Baker Foundation Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, Director of Research.
The main contributions: Teresa Amabile is best known for her groundbreaking research and writing on creativity, particularly within organizational settings. She developed the Componential theory of creativity (Componential and revised Dynamic Componential model of creativity) and the concept of “inner work life”. She is also well known for her research on how everyday life inside organizations can influence people and their performance, particularly in terms of creativity and innovation.

Theory and practice of creativity

Theory of creativity. Amabile has made significant contributions to the development of the psychological concepts of creativity. Her research has shown that creativity is not just a function of individual talent, but also of the environment in which people work. She has also shown that creativity is not a linear process, but rather a cyclical one that is fueled by small wins.
1. The componential theory of creativity.
1.1. She developed the Componential Model of Creativity (1983), which suggests that creativity is a function of three key components:
(a) domain-relevant skills (expertise in the relevant domain or domains),
(b) creativity-relevant processes (cognitive and personality processes conducive to novel thinking),
(c) intrinsic task motivation (specifically, the intrinsic motivation to engage in the activity out of interest, enjoyment, or a personal sense of challenge).
1.2. The componential theory of creativity in organisation.
In 1988, Amabile published an extension of the theory to encompass both creativity and innovation in organizations.
According to the expanded theory, innovation depends on
(a) resources in the task domain (analogous to domain-relevant skills at the individual level);
(b) skills in innovation management (analogous to an individual’s creativity-relevant
(c) motivation to innovate (analogous to individual task motivation).
1.3. The componential theory of creativity (2013) as a comprehensive model of the social and psychological components.
The theory is grounded in a definition of creativity as the production of ideas or outcomes that are both novel and appropriate to some goal. Creativity, – Amabile noted, – is the production of a novel and appropriate response, product, or solution to an open-ended task.
In this theory, four components are necessary for any creative response:
(a) domain relevant skills,
(b) creativity-relevant processes,
(c) intrinsic task motivation
(d) social environment in which the individual is working.
This version of the theory encompasses organizational creativity and innovation, carrying implications for the work environments created by managers.
1.4. The Dynamic Componential Model of Creativity (2016), (&Michael G. Pratt).
This model retains the componential structure of the original model and adds a four new dynamic elements, in the form of feedback loops:
(a) a sense of progress in creative idea development;
(b) the meaningfulness of the work to those carrying it out;
(c) affect;
(d) synergistic extrinsic motivation.
All psychological factors are interconnected, such that changes in one are likely to spur changes in the others.

Creative Process Research. The Creative process model describes the sequence and manner of combining various cognitive and personality processes over time. Amabile suggested that creativity does not happen all at once in a sudden flash of insight, but emerges through a predictable combination of activities over time. She identified 5 stages of activity in the creative process: 1. Task identification. 2. Preparation. 3. Response Generation. 4. Response Validation and Communication. 5. Outcomes.
Each of these activities is catalyzed by specific combinations of motivation, domain-relevant skills, and creative thinking skills. Amabile also seeded the notion of dynamism in the creative process, arguing that, the creative process is iterative.
In addition to this, she especially emphasized the social nature of the creative process.
The importance of context. Amabile’s research has shown that the environment in which people work can have a significant impact on their creativity. Environments that are characterized by autonomy, support, and challenge are more conducive to creativity than environments that are characterized by control, lack of support, and lack of challenge.

Motivation and creative self

Amabile has studied various aspects of motivation and explored how intrinsic and extrinsic motivation affect creativity and innovation in the workplace, as well as how goal progress and feedback can impact motivation and performance.
1. The importance of intrinsic motivation. She found that intrinsic motivation, or the desire to engage in an activity for its own sake, is a key driver of creativity and innovation.
Her research has known that individuals are most creative when they are motivated by the sheer joy and interest in the work itself and they are more likely to be successful than people who are extrinsically motivated.
2. The role of mood and emotions. Amabile has also researched the impact of mood and emotions on creative thinking and problem-solving, finding that a positive mood can enhance creativity while a negative mood can hinder it. She considered that positive affect can induce changes in cognitive processing that facilitate creative activity. Apart from that, when people and groups experience more positive affect, they are more friendly and sociable and might be more likely to gather the cognitive fuel necessary for creative thought. So, the notion, that creativity thrives only under pressure or unhappiness is a myth. However, periodic moderate stress can make us feel excited and appropriately aroused to action
3. The importance of internal attribution. People who attribute their successes to their own efforts are more likely to be creative than people who attribute their successes to external factors.
4. The importance of the creative self. Amabile’s research has shown that people who have a strong sense of creative self-identity are more likely to be creative than people who do not have a strong sense of creative self-identity.
Originally focusing on individual creativity, Teresa’s research expanded to encompass individual productivity, team creativity, and organizational innovation.

Creativity in organizations

Amabile is known for her research on creativity and innovation, particularly in the workplace and organisation.
Amabile’s research has shown that organizations that foster creativity are more likely to be innovative, competitive and more successful.
She found that a supportive and nurturing work environment can lead to higher levels of creativity and innovation.
Her research on the work environment looked at how factors such as time pressure, resources, and social support can impact creativity and innovation in the workplace.
She has explored factors that influence creativity, including the role of intrinsic motivation, social context, and the impact of leadership and organizational culture.
She has also studied how creativity can be enhanced through interventions such as skill-building and goal-setting.

Progress Principle
The book Progress Principle, which she wrote with her husband S. J. Kramer, arose out of a multi-year research program. Two related reciprocal factors findings rose to the top: the inner work-life effect and the progress principle.
Inner Work Life Framework: The Inner work life is the term for the constant flow of emotions, perceptions, and motivations that people experience as they react to and try to make sense of the events that occur throughout the workday.
Amabile identified six inner work-life factors crucial for creativity: progress, autonomy, psychological ownership, meaning, social connection, and fair treatment.
Her research shows that emotions, perceptions, and motivation and their confluence can influence people’s creativity and productivity.
The progress principle shows that small wins can have a significant impact on people’s motivation and can fuel creativity. When people make progress on their goals, they are more likely to experience positive moods and intrinsic motivation, which are both essential for creativity.
She and S. J. Kramer argued that the most effective managers are those who can create a positive work environment for their employees. This includes consistently positive emotions, strong motivation, and favourable perceptions of the organization, their work, and their colleagues. Thus, seemingly mundane workday events can make or break employees’ inner work lives, but it’s forward momentum in meaningful work progress that creates the best inner work lives.
Creativity in Teams: She investigated the dynamics of creativity in collaborative settings, emphasizing psychological safety, shared goals, and effective leadership.
Her last research investigates how life inside organizations can influence people and their performance, as well as how people approach and experience the transition to retirement.
Methods for assessing creativity, motivation, and the work environment; and a set of prescriptions for maintaining and stimulating innovation
Her contributions include measurement tools:
Work Preference Inventory is a tool to assess individual differences in intrinsic and extrinsic motivational orientations and measures people’s preferences for different types of work.
KEYS to Creativity and Innovation is an assessment tool for organizational climate for creativity.
Business Consulting. Teresa Amabile is an accomplished speaker in the field of business management, educating and inspiring audiences with lectures, workshops, and interactive discussions. She has worked with various groups as small as 15 and as large as several thousand, in for-profit businesses, education, non-for-profit organizations, and a variety of associations.
Teresa consults firms of all sizes on creativity, innovation, and employee engagement. With the aim of both increasing insight and galvanizing action, she works with managers to support positive change in their day-by-day people-management practices.
She has presented her theories, research results, and practical implications to various groups in business, government, and education, including Apple, IDEO, Procter & Gamble, Roche Pharma, Pfizer, Genentech, TEDx Atlanta, the Society for Human Resource Management.
Honours and awards:
She has received many awards and honours for her contributions to the field of psychology and for her research on creativity and motivation including:
the Torrance Award from the National Association for Gifted Children (1998).
Ranked 18 on Thinkers50 (a biennial global ranking of business and management leaders), 2011
Distinguished Scholar Award from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. In 2017.
Lifetime Achievement Award from the Israel Organizational Behavior Conference (2018);
Lifetime Achievement Award in Organizational Behavior from the Academy of Management in 2018.
In 2020, she was named one of the top 50 scholars, by citation count, in business/management (PLOS Biology).
Fellow, American Psychological Association; 1987-present
Fellow, Association for Psychological Science, 1988-present
Member, Academy of Management, 1988-present

Major works:
Amabile has published over 150 articles and chapters in academic journals and books, numerous research papers and articles on creativity and motivation, as well as several books for a general audience. Her research has been cited over 45,000 times in the scientific literature, according to Google Scholar.
Amabile, T. M. (1983). The social psychology of creativity. Springer.
Amabile, T. M. (1985). Motivation and creativity: Effects of motivational orientation on creative writers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48(2), 393–399
Hennessey, B.A. & Amabile, T.M. (1987). Creativity and Learning. Washington, DC: National Education Association.
Amabile, T.M. (1989). Growing Up Creative. New York: Crown
Amabile, T. M., & Gryskiewicz, N. (1989). The creative environment scales: Work Environment Inventory. Creativity Research Journal, 2, 231–254.
Amabile, T. M., Hill, K. G., Hennessey, B. A., & Tighe, E. M. (1994). The Work Preference Inventory: Assessing Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivational Orientations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66(5), 950-967.
Amabile, T. M., Burnside, R., & Gryskiewicz, S. S. (1995). User’s guide for KEYS: Assessing the climate for creativity. Center for Creative Leadership
Amabile, T. M. (1996), Psychology of Creativity” which she co-edited with Rosabeth Moss Kanter and Barry Staw.
Amabile, T. M. (1996). Creativity in context: Update to the social psychology of creativity. Westview Press.
Amabile, T. M., & Khaire, M. (2008). Creativity and the Role of the Leader. Harvard Business Review, 86(10), 100-109.
.Hennessey, B. A., & Amabile, T. M. (2010). Creativity. Annual Review of Psychology, 61, 569–598.
Amabile, T. M., & Kramer, S. J. (2011). The Progress Principle: Using small wins to ignite joy, engagement, and creativity at work. Harvard Business Review Press.
Amabile, T. M., & Kramer, S. J. (2011). The power of small wins. Harvard Business Review, 89(5), 70–80.
Amabile T. M. (2013). Componential Theory of Creativity Encyclopedia of Management Theory (Eric H. Kessler, Ed.), Sage Publications.
Amabile, T. M., & Pratt, M. G. (2016). The dynamic componential model of creativity and innovation in organizations: Making progress, making meaning. Research in Organizational Behavior, 36, 157–183.
Amabile, T. M. (2016). The motivation for creativity. In R. J. Sternberg, S. T. Fiske, & D. J. Foss (Eds.), Scientists making a difference (pp. 275–278). Cambridge University Press.
Amabile, T. M. (2017). In pursuit of everyday creativity. Journal of Creative Behavior, 51, 335–337.
Amabile, T. M. (2019). Understanding retirement requires getting inside people’s stories: A call for more qualitative research. Work, Aging and Retirement, 5(3), 207–211.

Career and personal life

Education background:
Teresa holds a B.S. in chemistry from Canisius College(1972). She said that her research supervisor Professor Frank Dinan, a chemist was extremely important in her personal growth. He helped her think through her love of science, her growing interest in psychology, and the implications for her career choices.
She then earned a Master’s degree in psychology from Stanford University in 1975.
She then holds her Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University in 1977, with a specialization in social psychology. Her doctoral dissertation examined the effects of verbal feedback on intrinsic motivation and creativity.
Professional work experience:
After completing her Ph.D., Amabile began her academic career as an Assistant Professor at Brandeis University (1977-1984). Then she served as Associate Professor (1984-1990) and Professor at Brandeis University (1990-1994).
In 1995 she moved to Harvard Business School, where she worked for about 30 years.
She served there as Unit Head, Entrepreneurial Management (2002-2008), Senior Associate Dean, and Director of Research.
She is currently the Edsel Bryant Ford Professor of Business Administration and Baker Foundation Professor, at Harvard Business School (2016-present).
At Harvard Business School, Amabile has taught MBA and executive courses on managing creativity, leadership, and ethics. Previously, at Brandeis University, she taught social psychology, organizational psychology, the psychology of creativity, and statistics.
In addition to participating in various executive programs at Harvard Business School, she created the MBA course Managing for Creativity and has taught several courses to first-year MBA students.
Throughout her career, Amabile has conducted extensive research on creativity and motivation, with a focus on how the work environment can either enhance or undermine creativity.
She has also been a visiting professor at Stanford University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Colorado.
Teresa was the host of Against All Odds: Inside Statistics, a 26-part instructional series originally produced for broadcast on PBS in 1989.
In addition to her academic work, Amabile has served on the editorial boards of several major psychology journals:
Creativity Research Journal, Creativity and Innovation Management, and the Journal of Creative Behavior.
Personal life: Amabile is married to Steven Kramer, who is also a psychologist, independent researcher and writer. He is a co-author of The Progress Principle.
Philosophy of life: Amabile is a strong believer in the power of creativity to change the world. She is also a strong advocate for the importance of creating environments that foster creativity.
She has also always emphasized the importance of intrinsic motivation, or the desire to engage in an activity for its own sake rather than for external rewards.
Secrets of success: Teresa Amabile’s success can be attributed to her rigorous and systematic approach to studying creativity, her hard work, her dedication, and her dedication to teaching and mentoring the next generation of scholars and practitioners.
One of her strongest traits is her ability to translate research findings into practical insights, and to bridge academic research with practical implications for businesses.
She also believes that her mentors and colleagues have played a significant role in her success.
Personality traits, Individuality: Teresa Amabile is described as a kind, compassionate, and intelligent person. She is also known for her creativity and her ability to inspire others.


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