The well established view in psychology is that positive emotions are conducive to creativity. In 'The Progress Principle', Amabile and Kramer's extensive research suggest that, ‘the single most important factor in igniting creativity, joy, trust, and productivity in workplace situations is simply a sense of making progress on meaningful work’.
Does the principle also apply to the #creativeHE community and if it does what does meaningful work mean in this context? Is it to do with a sense of contributing to the community and seeing that what is contributed is valued? Or is it to do with making progress in our own understanding? Or is it both of these things or something else? And does this situation of making progress on meaningful work also trigger emotions like joy that contribute positively to our motivation to put effort into and enjoy what we are doing?
Psychologists maintain that positive emotional states broaden and open the mind, whereas negative emotions are detrimental to creativity because they narrow our focus. A broad focus of attention is associated with divergent and associative ways of thinking where ideas and things can be connected that are not usually connected while a narrow scope of attention is more conducive to linear, step-by-step goal directed attainment.
However, research also suggests that the positive vs. negative emotions distinction may not be the most important relationship for understanding attentional focus. Research conducted by psychologist Eddie Harmon-Jones and his colleagues suggests that the critical variable influencing our scope of attention is not positive vs. negative emotions but motivational intensity, or how strongly we feel compelled to either approach or avoid something. For example, pleasant or happy is a positive emotion, but it has low motivational intensity. In contrast, desire is a positive emotion with high motivational intensity. But negative emotions like fear and anxiety also have high motivational intensity.
Low motivational states facilitate the search for new goals to pursue, whereas high motivational states focus us on completing a specific goal. So keeping an open mind in order to explore or make sense of something complex by seeing the big picture is probably best undertaken when we are in a pleasant (or even sad) mood. But when we want to complete something we need high motivational intensity linked to desire, need or ambition... or even feelings of fear in some circumstances.
Returning to Amabile and Kramer's study of what made people more motivated, productive and creative in their work identified four factors that nourish a work culture in which people felt supported. They have a significant impact on the way people feel and on their creativity and productivity namely:
1 Respect - managerial actions determine whether people feel respected or disrespected and recognition is the most important of these actions.
2 Encouragement - for example when managers or colleagues are enthusiastic about an individual's work and when managers express confidence in the capabilities of people doing the work increases their sense of self-efficacy. Simply by sharing a belief that someone can do something challenging and trusting them to get on with greatly increases the self-belief of the people who are engaging with the challenge.
3 Emotional support - people feel more connected to others at work when their emotions are validated. This goes for events at work, like frustrations when things are not going smoothly and little progress is being made, and for significant events in someone's personal life. Recognition of emotion and empathy can do much to alleviate negative and amplify positive feelings with beneficial results for all concerned.
4 Affiliation - people want to feel connected to their colleagues so actions that develop bonds of mutual trust, appreciation and affection are essential in nourishing the spirit of participation.
These factors must also be relevant to participation in on-line communities such as the #creativeHE on-line course.
Image credit Kari Wagner http://www.kariwagner-artwork.com/about/voice/
Amabile T and Kramer S (2012) The Progress Principle
Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work
Harmon-Jones, E., Gable, P.A. Price, T.F (2013 ) Does Negative Affect Always Narrow and Positive Affect Always Broaden the Mind? Considering the Influence of Motivational Intensity on Cognitive Scope http://cdp.sagepub.com/content/22/4/301.short