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The Progress Principle: Using Small wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity At Work

2011 nonfiction book by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer

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Ground-breaking research that shatters the conventional wisdom of what truly motivates workers.

  • Aug 1, 2011
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The researchers themselves never saw it coming.  When Teresa Amabile of the Harvard Business School and her husband developmental psychologist Steven Kramer decided to collaborate on a study exploring worker creativity through the eyes of those in the trenches who actually perform the work they simply had no idea of the secrets they were about to unlock.  Typically, studies are done exploring topics like employee productivity and creativity from the point of view of upper management. The methodology that Amabile and Kramer chose to employ for this project would prove to be a bit unconventional to say the least. The authors were primarily interested in determining exactly what it is that motivates top performers.  They were able to recruit 238 people from 26 project teams in 7 companies in 3 different industries.  The participants were professionals whose work required them to solve complex problems creatively. What made this study truly unique was that at the end of each workday the participants were e-mailed a diary form that included several questions about their work experiences on that particular day.  Much to the authors' surprise an overwhelming majority of the participants responded on a daily basis. Furthermore, they recorded their experiences and impressions in a far more candid way than expected.  Amabile and Kramer had unwittingly stumbled upon a previously unexplored world.    The insights that they gained from this remarkable undertaking is the subject of their new book "The Progress Principle:  Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work".   Many business books can be rather dry and a chore to read.  But much to my surprise this book was different.  I simply could not put it down.
 
If you are a manager or team leader seeking optimum performance from the people you oversee then listen up.   Conventional wisdom would have you believe that it is primarily things like salaries and benefits, bonuses and recognition programs that motivate individuals.   While these are certainly important the authors unearthed the fact that what matters most to employees is what they dub the "inner work life".  Amabile and Kramer define inner work life as "the confluence of perceptions, emotions, and motivations that individuals experience as they react to and make sense of the events of their workday".   In the 12,000 diary reports submitted for this study the authors discovered that they possessed a veritable goldmine of information.  They had real-time access to the workday experiences of lots of people in a variety of different departments and organizations over an extended period of time.   In "The Progress Principle" you will be able to experience the ruminations of these workers first-hand and in the process you will discover the secrets that motivate people to be the best that they can be.   Furthermore, you will be able to compare and contrast the experiences of those who were employed by truly great organizations and managers who encouraged autonomy, set clear goals and furnished the resources necessary to succeed with companies whose managers and team leaders stifled creativity, constantly put obstacles in the way and were generally apathetic towards members of their team.   As the title of the book suggests what truly motivates today's sophisticated and highly trained workers are those "small wins" that indicate that progress is actually being made on a problem or project being worked on.   Managers and team leaders need to adjust to this new reality if they expect to achieve the kinds of positive results they are looking for.
 
One of the major reasons that I found "The Progress Principle:  Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work" to be so darn compelling is that along the way I have worked for both types of organizations.   Chances are that you have too.   The clues are unmistakable and once you have the basic precepts of the book down the reactions of these employees become highly predictable.   It is precisely why certain organizations thrive even in difficult economic times while others wither away on the vine.   "The Progress Principle" is chock full of useful tips and strategies that managers and team leaders can implement right away.   Furthermore the authors include a simple daily diary that managers and leaders can employ to assess how they are doing.  Utilizing this tool just might turn out to be the most important five or ten minutes a leader can spend each day.   "The Progress Principle:  Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work" just might be the best business book that I have ever read.  This book will challenge much of what you think you know about managing people while offering interesting alternatives to the way you have been doing things.  A totally engaging read from cover to cover.  Very highly recommended!
 

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About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #2
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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About this book

Wiki

What really sets the best managers above the rest? It’s their power to build a cadre of employees who have great inner work lives—consistently positive emotions; strong motivation; and favorable perceptions of the organization, their work, and their colleagues. The worst managers undermine inner work life, often unwittingly.

As Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer explain in The Progress Principle, seemingly mundane workday events can make or break employees’ inner work lives. But it’s forward momentum in meaningful work—progress—that creates the best inner work lives. Through rigorous analysis of nearly 12,000 diary entries provided by 238 employees in 7 companies, the authors explain how managers can foster progress and enhance inner work life every day.

The book shows how to remove obstacles to progress, including meaningless tasks and toxic relationships. It also explains how to activate two forces that enable progress: (1) catalysts—events that directly facilitate project work, such as clear goals and autonomy—and (2) nourishers—interpersonal events that uplift workers, including encouragement and demonstrations of respect and collegiality.

Brimming with honest examples from the companies studied, The Progress Principle equips aspiring and seasoned leaders alike with the insights they need to maximize their people’s performance.
 
 
About the Author
Teresa Amabile is a professor of Business ...
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Details

ISBN-10: 142219857X
ISBN-13: 978-1422198575
Genre: Organizational Behavior
Publisher: Harvard Business Press
Date Published: July 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
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