Constraints that Help or Hinder Creative Performance: A Motivational Approach

The proposed framework predicts the effects of working under two distinct types of constraints (those that limit vs. channel cognitive resources) depending on people’s motivational orientation (approach vs. avoidance). The main predictions are that constraints that limit cognitive resources undermine performance more under avoidance than under approach motivation, and that constraints that channel cognitive resources facilitate creativity under avoidance but not under approach motivation. While some of the predictions within this framework deserve more (direct) study, they provide several directions for developing strategies to successfully stimulate creative performance.
Creativity is often undermined by avoidance motivation, and in the best cases seems to be difficult and depleting. Yet, avoidance goals are prevalent in the workplace – a study comparing goal orientations in different domains revealed that approximately 61 per cent of the people participating in the study had a dominant avoidance goal in the work domain (Van Yperen, Hamstra & van der Klauw, 2011). Moreover, avoidance goals tend to be stronger than approach goals (Van Yperen & Orehek, 2013). In addition, threatening situations, such as a financial crisis in which people fear losing their jobs and security, are likely to evoke avoidance motivation. It has been proposed that avoidance motivation is best shunned, particularly when striving for creativity, but this may not always be feasible. Therefore, it is important to consider ways to stimulate creativity, even among avoidance motivated people and in situations that evoke avoidance motivation.

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