Wrote this as part of interning at an NGO. Autonomy is a driving force behind many great things in life. It’s often germinator of our greatest ideas and deeds. A better understanding of how autonomy drives our behaviour could help us all a better version of ourselves.
“All of you are free to help the children the way you want to through the medium of workshops, counselling, teaching etc,” announced the head of the N.G.O where me and my fellow classmates of my psychology class were present to help the students of a school ran by the N.G.O. The statement announced our freedom to help the students the way we wanted to, pushing us to innovate and think creatively. As a result , with workshops in the domain of sex education to personal level counselling, we helped the students in more ways than we could have imagined.
Human beings are creative beings. We sit down with a tissue paper and a pen, we scribble doodles, we sit together with friends and create poems with rhyming lines with each friend coming up with a new line ( no matter how nonsense) , we are born creative. Whatever we create and innovate as a result of our creativity is our own natural extension. Hence there is no doubt that a lot of people feel suffocated and that there is no growth occurring in their life where creativity is hindered, e.g — most of 9 to 5 jobs.
In the age of ever growing competition, innovating daily is more of a necessity rather than a choice and creativity is an important part of that.
But in a world where we consume more than we create, where often times our work forces us to be in an environment where creativity is hindered, the big question is how to motivate people (employees, students etc) to create and think in a convergent fashion.
The answer lies in the science of motivation especially in autonomy, intrinsic motivation, progress analysis and persistence
Autonomy is an important factor for motivating people, when people feel that they are free , independent and responsible for their actions, they are more motivated towards the task provided ( here task = think creatively). Google has been known to assign one hour break to its employees where they are free to innovate, to come up with new products in an environment of boundless freedom in creative terms. The result, a lot of popular Google products like AdSense came out of this free hour.
Furthermore an environment of unrestricted creativity allow people to do what they ‘want to’ do, innovate in the way they ‘want to’ do it. When people are doing something out of love for the task, for the inherent satisfaction that activity provides, they are intrinsically motivated. It has been found that people work better when they are intrinsically motivated rather than extrinsically motivated (based on punishments and rewards). In fact if you force people to innovate and think creatively through rewards, you may end up causing more harm than good as extrinsic motivation often kills intrinsic motivation.
While providing freedom and autonomy maybe very important in promoting creativity, an important trick is to analyse one’s progress throughout these creative efforts. Analyzing our progress motivates us to progress furthermore. Example — keeping yourself updated about the progress of your book ( word count, chapters) is highly likely to push you to write further rather than leaving your project in between.
Last but not the least , the most under looked element of creative thinking is persistence and continuous efforts to think creatively and innovate. While we are naturally made to be creative, it’s helpful to keep in mind that it requires ceaseless efforts and disciplined approach to use your creative abilities effectively the same way a skillful dancer requires disciplined and continuous practice to master his/her skills.