Are creative people motivated differently?

For me I find deadlines to be a key motivator within the creative process, however deadlines are present in a number of other non-creative disciplines. I am trying to gain a better understanding of how creative people work and how leaders can motivate their teams. Has anyone got an opinion on this matter?

There have been many books written about intrinsic and extrinsic values as motivation. Deadlines are an extrinsic value. Personally, I am more motivated by intrinsic values, but that is the point, we all have differing motivations. Interesting stuff, imo.

Here is a quick 10 minute TED talk about it. But this is just the tip of the iceberg and only one point of view.

This quote rings true for me when it comes to motivation:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Deadlines don’t motivate me at all, people only motivate me when they’re really exciting and interesting people, becoming famous has fallen away as a motivation, and also seeing your designs out there in the ‘real world’ doesn’t motivate me anymore. So that all sounds real depressing :slight_smile:

Still I deeply enjoy doing design, and it’s purely this enjoyment that sort of gets me going. It’s like an artist who becomes engrossed in the process of painting and forgets himself in order to watch something unborn grow into existence. It’s like you’re merging with a higher mind and are only there to watch the mystery unfold. It’s working with that uncertainty of what’s going to come out of the explorative and artistic process, that mostly motivates me.

Great quote. I wonder though–can that be taught?

External deadlines motivate to finish.
Internal passion motivates to design.

Combining and balancing these every day is the challenge!

What motivates me (other than the typical earning enough for food, shelter and a comfortable living) is cumulative change and progress. The sense that what I’m doing is adding up to something beyond a project to project basis. I want to know that my brands, my company, my team, and myself are all growing exponentially because of the work we are doing.

Projects are never ending. Before you can finish one, 2 more are on your plate. Understanding where they are all heading helps me to pick my battles, understand what boundaries to respect and what ones to nullify, and to understand what it is adding up to is to begin to shape the outcome.

The other thing that motivates me is being out of my comfort zone. I don’t like to be the expert. It is too limiting. That is one of the reasons I left the footwear industry after almost 8 years. It got too cozy. The products I was the most proud of where when I didn’t know what the rules were.

That and making cool stuff. I’ve probably brought 400+ products to market. Never gets old. I love hiding out in a store and watching someone buy something I helped design. Coming across them using it in the wild is even better. Of all the things they could have bought, they chose that thing. If I did my job right, hopefully it satisfies a need with both utility and joy. That is motivating to me.

It’s also easy to confuse motivation with inspiration. I’m motivated by deadlines (getting it done on time, in budget, what have you), but deadlines don’t inspire me. Seeing what I designed, being built, is what inspires me to keep going.

I’m taking an organizational behaviour class right now. I don’t think that creative people are motivated in different ways than most other professionals. Most people that go through years of school and apprenticeship aren’t going to be motivated because of a small bonus or someone yelling at them. The research even backs that up.

Part of the motivation is definitely the internal drivers that Yo talks about. I think we all understand that.

However, charismatic leadership is a powerful motivator (see Apple).

In all my jobs, the need that we have to be accepted and support our team was powerful. I think you can look at armed forces training to see how this works.

In my class, we talk alot about participative management. I think CAD monkey jobs are highly demotivating for creative types, even though it’s a very important part of the process. However, I think there are ways to get everyone invested in projects at the start and that will keep them motivated. For me, this ties can tie into the charismatic leadership.

As for deadlines, I’ve always had to assign my own. I’ve always worked for entrepreneurs who want to keep the door open to changing projects so they refuse to give deadlines. My internal deadlines have always just made me make hard decisions, but I wouldn’t say they motivated me.

Hopefully the ship builder’s recruiting process finds men who already yearn for the sea and that’s why they want to work for him. To teach it requires charisma, sharing your vision, and the ability to inspire your passion in others.