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  • [applause]

  • >>Teresa Amabile: Thank you so much. I'm really delighted to be here. And please don't feel

  • shy. Come on down in front. I'd love to have people sitting down close. I get a lot of

  • energy from being able to talk to you in this way. I'm really excited to be here and to

  • be able to share with you some, what I think, are some fairly surprising results from our

  • recent research.

  • The basic research question is a pretty simple one. What makes people happy, motivated, productive,

  • and creative at work? Now obviously, this is a pretty important question because presumably,

  • we all want to be happy and motivated at work. And our organizations want us to be creative

  • and productive.

  • But the answer to this question really isn't very simple at all. For one thing, do these

  • even go together? Think about the prototypical starving artist. Do happiness and creativity

  • work in the same direction or might they work in opposition? Another question about this.

  • Should managers care how happy people are at work? And also, what influences any of

  • these? Take creativity for example. People have been wondering about creativity at least

  • since the time of Plato. I, myself, have been studying creativity since I was about five

  • years old.

  • Really. True. At least, that's the first time I remember hearing the word "creativity."

  • I was in kindergarten and I overheard my kindergarten teacher tell my mother, "I think Teresa shows

  • a lot of potential for artistic creativity and I hope that's something she really develops

  • over the years."

  • I was ecstatic when I heard this. I don't think I really knew what creativity meant,

  • but it sounded good. I was glad I had it. And I was looking forward to a lifetime as

  • a creative artist. Well, unfortunately, that kindergarten year was the high point of artistic

  • career.

  • [laughter]

  • I really have never done anything with art after that, and I've often thought about why.

  • What is it that happened to that promised artistic creativity? As I look back on it,

  • I think it might have had something to do with the kind of day by day experiences that

  • I had with art in those years following.

  • So, kindergarten was in a very progressive, open-school kind of situation where we had

  • a lot of free play time and a lot of access to these wonderful art materials all day.

  • The following year, my parents enrolled me in a very strict, traditional, parochial school.

  • There it is. St. Joe's Elementary in North Tonawanda, New York. Doesn't that look like

  • a lot of fun?

  • [laughter]

  • So, at St. Joe's, art, rather than being something that we did all the time every day, art became

  • a subject that we had once a week. And every week, we got the same, pretty bizarre activity

  • given to us. We were each given a small reprint of one the great masterworks in painting and

  • we were asked to copy it.

  • So, this is something that we got in Second Grade--da Vinci's Adoration of the Magi. And

  • we were told to copy this with absolutely no skill training and with material that looked

  • pretty much like this.

  • [laughter]

  • This was obviously an exercise in frustration. And what's more, we were really strictly graded

  • on these monstrosities we produced. Mine were true monstrosities. I couldn't even figure

  • out how to get all those horses and Saints on the page, let alone make them look like

  • horses and Saints.

  • And there was only one time in all those years in school that I heard the word "creative."

  • I decided to do something interpretive on this particular day. I was doing something

  • abstract during art. And I heard the nun walking up the aisle. And then, I noticed that she

  • stopped by my desk and she was looking down at me.

  • And then I heard her say, "I think maybe we're being a little too creative."

  • [laughter]

  • I was mortified when she said this. I was embarrassed. I was angry. I looked at her

  • as being a cruel person. I saw myself as being ridiculous. And I certainly lost all of my

  • motivation at that point for doing anything with art. It was like the last straw in my

  • drive to do anything with art as a kid.

  • Now, in an adult at work, I would call that kind of reaction "poor inner work life." Let

  • me show you what I mean by inner work life. It's the combination of perceptions, emotions,

  • and motivations that people experience at they're reacting to and trying to make sense

  • of the events going on in their work day.

  • So, inner work life consists of perceptions. That is, your thoughts, impressions, your

  • judgments about the place where you work, your co-workers, your bosses, the work that

  • you're doing--even yourself as an employee. So, those are your perceptions. It's also

  • your motivations, your emotions and your emotional reactions to what's happening with what's

  • going on.

  • And also, you're general mood on a given day. And it's your motivation for doing the work.

  • And we found that the most important motivation for creativity is what we call "intrinsic

  • motivation." And that's your passion for doing what you're doing, your drive to do it because

  • you find it interesting, exciting, because you're personally challenged by it.

  • So this complex of psychological experiences are inner work life. Inner work life is called

  • "inner" because it's mostly hidden. Let me give you an example of this. Have you ever

  • been in a business meeting with higher status people? When one of those people says something

  • so outrageous that you're momentarily stunned--I see some heads nodding--I think many of us

  • had had that experience.

  • So, did you say what you were thinking? If you're like me and most people, you didn't.

  • Do you let it show on your face? If you're like me, you did something like this.

  • [laughter]

  • When, in fact, you wanted to react by saying, "What? What did you just say?" So, it's really

  • hidden away. Co-workers are often not aware on inner work life and bosses certainly aren't

  • aware of it, especially if the reaction is negative. But does it matter?

  • Does it really matter what people's innermost thoughts, feelings, are at work? In short,

  • you bet it does. It matters a lot. In fact, inner work life is a central construct in

  • our research. It matters a great deal for the work that people do and it matters for

  • the people doing that work.

  • I'm going to illustrate the importance of inner work life by telling you two contrasting

  • stories of two companies from our research. I think of these companies in Dickensonian

  • terms. The best of time and the worst of times.

  • Because the worst company, in terms of employee engagement and actual success, was like the

  • evil twin of the best company in our research, because these two companies were oddly similar

  • before we started our research. They were both very well-known companies.

  • I can't tell you the real names, by the way. I'm gonna use disguise names because we have

  • some pretty confidential information on them. Very well-known companies, very profitable

  • and known as the innovative leaders in their industries. I'm gonna start with the worst.

  • And it's a company that we call "Karpenter Corporation." It's one of the best-known consumer

  • products brands in the world. Imagine that you're standing with your co-workers in the

  • parking lot of the building where you work. And you're watching silently as the contents

  • of that building are being auctioned off--your computers, CADs, work stations, your desks,

  • your telephones.

  • Your chairs are being auctioned off. You used to be proud to work for this particular company

  • because it was known for its really cool innovative products. But the last few years, innovation

  • began to fizzle, profitability tanked. The company was acquired by a smaller rival and

  • now it's being completely closed down.

  • And it's breaking your heart. That's the story of Karpenter Corporation. And it's the story

  • of the demise of one of the great consumer products companies of the 20th Century. Now,

  • let me tell you about the best of times. A company that we call "O'Reilly Coated Materials."

  • This company makes coated fabrics for weather-proof clothing and a wide variety of other products

  • that are known around the world. We studied Karpenter and O'Reilly at roughly the same

  • time period. And they actually use a lot of the same raw materials, so the economic conditions

  • for these two companies were pretty similar.

  • And yet, Karpenter lies dead and O'Reilly is still at the top of its industry and is

  • still known as the innovative leader. So, what made the difference between these two

  • companies that looked so similar at one point? My research team and I studied these companies

  • in real time in great detail and I can tell you what it's not.

  • It's not any of these things because the two companies were the same, essentially, on all

  • of these aspects. Both public companies. Both had similar incentive systems. Because they

  • were so well-known, they were able to hire the cream of the crop in their disciplines,

  • highly-skilled employees, and we had personality profiles on people in these companies.

  • And there were no differences. The personality profiles were in the normal range. So, my

  • co-author, Steve Kramer, and I are both psychologists. We're not the kind of psychologists who can

  • cure your neurosis for you, but we are able to give you a view of what really happens

  • inside organizations.

  • And when we took this deep look into these companies, we realized that what really differentiated

  • them was inner work life--the inner work life experiences that their employees were having

  • day by day. So it turns out that shortly before we started our study, a new management team

  • had come in at Karpenter.

  • And by what they said and did every day, they slowly changed the climate at Karpenter. And

  • they essentially poisoned inner work life. And this is something that we saw happening

  • day by day. So, let me tell you a little something about how we got our look at inner work life.

  • It is hidden most of the time. We decided that the best way to get a window into what

  • was really going on was to ask people working on creative projects to send us daily confidential

  • electronic diaries describing what had gone on for them in their own work experience that

  • day and what their inner work life was like for that day.

  • So that's what we did--daily, confidential, electronic diaries. We studied three industries

  • in this entire project, a total of seven companies in these industries, 26 creative project teams.

  • These are projects that required creativity. They required innovative solutions in order

  • to be done successfully.

  • In these 26 creative project teams, we had a total of 238 professionals participating

  • in the research. Because they participated every day during the entire course of the

  • project they were working on, we amassed a total of nearly 12 thousand daily diary reports,

  • which we were able to analyze.

  • This was a real treasure trove of data for us. We had numerical data. We actually had

  • day by day scale ratings from these people of what their inner work life was like--their

  • perceptions, their emotions, and their motivation. We also had numerical data on their performance.

  • Quite apart from their diaries, we had performance ratings by co-workers and supervisors throughout

  • the entire course of the time that we were studying these people. And we actually had

  • behavioral measures, too. I'll tell you a little bit more about that in just a minute.

  • To me, the most interesting part of the daily diaries were the stories that we got about

  • people's days. So, at the end of the diary form, we asked a question: "Briefly describe

  • one event from today that stands out in your mind from the work day. It can be anything

  • at all."

  • These stories were incredibly rich, often very detailed accounts of something that had

  • actually happened that day in these people's work lives. Let me give you an example of

  • some of these diaries that we got. This first one is from a product manager at Karpenter

  • Corporation named Sophie.

  • That's what we call her anyway. This was one of Sophie's worst days during the time that

  • we were studying Karpenter Corporation.

  • She said, "I don't understand why R&D kills so many of my projects, yet I'm supposedly

  • measured on new product development. The VP of R&D killed my new hand-held mixer three

  • times before it was approved a couple weeks ago. Very conflicting goals causing us to

  • start, stop, restart, etc."

  • This really was a worst day for Sophie. Her intrinsic motivation on this day was over

  • two and a half standard deviations below her own baseline. And her affect, her mood for

  • the day, was one and a half standard deviations below her own baseline.

  • Now for contrast, this is a diary from someone in O'Reilly Corporation, two thousand miles

  • away, almost at exactly the same point in time.

  • This is a team leader named Dave. "Presented 1.5 hoursworth of technical data, market

  • information, process capability and cost information in the project review. The review was very

  • well-received. Much assistance was given and we passed. We were allowed to go on to the

  • next stage."

  • Dave's intrinsic motivation on this day was almost one standard deviation above his average.

  • And his mood for the day was one and a half standard deviations above his average. So,

  • this was a best day for Dave. And I could give you lots of examples just like this from

  • O'Reilly Corporation.

  • I could also give you many examples like Sophie's from Karpenter Corporation--many days where

  • that kind of thing happened to a variety of people. Now let me tell you something about

  • how we measured creativity. We got a quasi-behavioral measure by looking at what people reported

  • doing that day in their diary.

  • Now, we didn't tell them that we were looking for creativity, that we wanted them to tell

  • us about their new ideas. In fact, we didn't even say that we were focusing on creativity

  • in this study. But if they happened to report that they came up with a new idea on a given

  • day, or that they solved a complex problem, we counted that as an example of creativity.

  • So here's an example from a different company. This is a high-tech firm. This is from an

  • engineer's diary. He said, "Working on the details of how the image will be produced,

  • I really got into the problem and came up with an elegant method for dealing with overloaded

  • tasks."

  • So when we put these creativity data and our other performance data together with inner

  • work life data, we made our first discovery. We call it the "inner work life effect." And

  • that is that inner work life drives performance. We found that all three aspects of inner work

  • life--perceptions, emotions, and motivation--predict four dimensions of performance.

  • When people have more positive perceptions of their organization, their co-workers, their

  • bosses, the work that they're doing, when they have more pleasant emotions like feeling

  • happy, feeling proud, and when they feel stronger intrinsic motivation, on those days they're

  • more likely to be creative, productive, committed to the work, and they're likely to be better

  • colleagues to the people around them.

  • So for instance, one study that we did, we found that when people had more positive emotions

  • on one day, they were more likely to have creative ideas that day. And not only that,

  • they were more likely to have creative ideas the following day. Even controlling for that

  • next day's mood.

  • So we found a carryover effect of positive emotion on creative thinking. You could call

  • this inner work life effect, the Zappos effect. You're probably familiar with the fact that

  • Zappos has built this online commerce powerhouse in part, based on the happiness philosophy

  • of CEO, Tony Hsieh.

  • He says, "We believe you can't have happy customers unless you have happy employees."

  • And there are a number of people who really believe that the happiness philosophy is at

  • least in part responsible for the very high-quality work you see at Zappos from people, whether

  • they're working in those call centers, taking customer orders and dealing with customer

  • issues, or whether they're working in the bustling warehouses.

  • So, this is an anecdote that supports the inner work life effect we found. But there

  • was another study that came out just a few months ago that gives further support to the

  • inner work life effect. These researchers used a very different methodology. They have

  • survey data from over 140 thousand employees in a variety of companies, business units,

  • a variety of industries around the world.

  • They wanted to see what effect job satisfaction and people's perceptions of their work environment,

  • basically, what effect inner work life would have on bottom line performance of the company.

  • They found that when a business unit's employees had higher levels of job satisfaction and

  • more positive perceptions of their managers, their co-workers, and their jobs, at one point

  • in time, that business unit at a later point in time was more likely to have higher sales

  • growth, greater profitability, higher levels of customer loyalty, and greater employee

  • retention.

  • So think about it. Inner work life leads to better bottom line performance for companies.

  • So, if inner work life drives performance--and it does--what drives inner work life? We decided

  • to take a look at this by isolating the very best inner work life days from those 12 thousand

  • days of data that we had and understanding what events actually happened on those days--categorizing

  • the events, coding them.

  • And contrasting the events on the best inner work life days with those on the very worst

  • inner work life days. And when we did this, we found that one kind of event stood out

  • on those best days. Simply, making progress in meaningful work. We call this the "progress