How To

How to Motivate a Creative Team

Author: Melinda Martin
Lightbulb water color drawing

In my experience, most Creatives are not motivated by money. Money is nice, but if it was the only driving factor we would all be pretty unhappy.

Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, says that autonomy and the ability to direct your own work is the secret to high performing teams. He explains that this especially applies to creative work done independently, even when on a team.

Recognition without Meaning, May be Meaningless

“The Progress Principle” was discovered by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer during their 20-year study of psychological factors that drive creative, productive performance. They found that meaningful work was the single most important thing that could boost emotions and motivation during a workday. Everyday progress, even a small win, can make the difference in performance. Not all managers realize this and may think recognition is the most important. As Amabile and Kramer point out, “Without work achievements, there is little to recognize.”

Collaboration as a Culture

Another way to generate creativity is to create a culture that welcomes ideas from all areas of the company. Diversity grows your idea pool and adds to your success. Ask for ideas and make sure the ideas submitted receive constructive feedback. If employees know the “how” and the “why” their idea did or didn’t work, they will be more comfortable offering ideas in the future. An idea or collaboration that’s recognized (even when not utilized) or rewarded encourages even more future creativity.

Clear Communication Lays the Foundations

When presenting a new project to your Creative team, be as specific as possible and share goals/expectations. Give clear direction and define the project. Use a Creative Brief to communicate details; include: goals, budget, timelines, resources, technical and media considerations, target audience and who the project owner is.

Provide Productive Feedback

A Creative who receives productive feedback is more likely to produce something out of their comfort zone—something new and exciting. What is productive feedback? According to Matt Ström of product agency Planetary, feedback on creative work should:

  • Be clear and concise.
  • Encourage prompt action.
  • Refer to matter, attributes, and process — the what, how and why/when.

Productive feedback should be used whether the Creative output does or doesn’t meet expectation, in order to encourage continued progress. Even the well thought out and researched idea may miss the mark. Creative people take risks. Reward and appreciate their bravery. The failures provide lessons learned and experiences to reflect upon.

Encourage Creative Fun

The Marketing team here at FASTSIGNS® International, Inc. has a tracking meeting twice a month and after everyone presents their current projects, time is allotted for “fun.” The intra team leaders rotate hosting the tracking meeting and are responsible to “bring the fun.” So far, this has included writing songs, creating Halloween costumes with office supplies and 5-minutes of warning/prep, decorating holiday sugar cookies and answering coworker trivia questions. It’s a great way to flex one’s creative muscle while providing a small break from the day-to-day grind.

Group of people dressed up for Halloween

man dressed up as a lab scientist

man smiling wearing headphones attached with paper plates and sunglasses

Other companies embrace this concept to keep employees engaged and motivated. For example: the Product Experience Team at Foursquare ends their week with a creative exercise for the group. Each week, a different person on the team comes up with the task and leads the meeting. They spend half the time doing the exercise and the rest of the time they share what they did. For a list of these creative exercises and more information, click here:

2 caffeine for the creative team books

There are many other resources for team creative activities and I personally refer to Caffeine for the Creative Team often. You can find the book here: