Tag Archives: Teresa Amabile

“High-Commitment” Workplaces Enhance Creative Problem Solving, Innovation

Organizations recognize the importance of continuous innovation to grow revenues.

Richard E. Walton

Richard E. Walton

As a result, many organizations have experimented with “high-commitment work systems (HCWS)” described by Harvard’s Richard E. Walton, as a “lever” to positively influence employee productivity, retention, and innovation.

High-commitment employee benefits are designed to elicit employees’ reciprocal commitment and intrinsic motivation to support the organization’s objectives.
These programs may include:

  • Employee participation initiatives,
  • Team rewards,
  • Profit sharing,
  • Career development training,
  • Internal transfer opportunities,
  • Internal advancement opportunities, with preference over external candidates,
  • Employment ”security.”
Song Chang

Song Chang

Organizations with these high-commitment employee programs, measured by High Commitment Work System Scale, had highly innovative and creative employees when they worked with cohesive teams on complex tasks in a study of more than 50 technology firms in China by Song Chang of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, with Nanjing University’s Liangding Jia and Yahua Cai, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s Riki Takeuchi.

Zhixing Xiao

Zhixing Xiao

High-commitment work systems (HCWS)” can occur in organizations with varying approaches to human capital management, described by China Europe International Business School’s Zhixing Xiao and Anne S. Tsui of Arizona State University:

  • Anne Tsui

    Anne Tsui

    Mutual-investment (or organization-focused) strategies combine:
    -Specified, closed economic exchanges with
    -Unspecified, open-ended social exchanges that include implied trust and reciprocity leading to
    Expectations of employment security,

David Walsh

David Walsh

Although this job-focused approach does not imply trust or reciprocity, many contract employers offer employee benefits similar to those in “high-commitment” workplaces.

Joshua Schwartz

Joshua Schwartz

This contrast between employers’ implied social contract by offering high-commitment benefits with at-will employment may appear incongruous to employees.
The result may be confusion, cynicism or disengagement.

David Walsh-Joshua Schwartz At Will Exceptions MapDespite these contrasting approaches to employee relations, high-commitment benefit programs can enable “creative situations,” described by Harvard’s Teresa Amabile, in which individual motivation can contribute to commercial innovation.

Teresa Amabile

Teresa Amabile

Organizations that establish creative work situations, she noted, typically offer some high-commitment employee programs:

  • Job rotation,
  • Training to increase subject matter expertise,
  • Job autonomy,
  • Working in teams to solve problems and deliver products,
  • Participative management.

Despite not guaranteeing employment tenure, these programs were associated with:

  • Egalitarian culture,
  • High trust,
  • Support for disrupting status quo.

Song Chang 2Workplace environment-shaping through high-commitment employee programs can lead to increased innovation and related commercial opportunities.

However, organizations that adhere to at-will employment practices and offer high-commitment benefits can benefit from clearly communicating the limits of their commitments to avoid adverse employee reactions.

-*What are most effective ways to balance and integrate coexisting at-will employment policies with “high-commitment work systems”?


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Working toward Goals with “Implementation Intentions”

Heidi Grant Halvorson

Heidi Grant Halvorson

People are motivated by goals that provide opportunities for:

  • -Relatedness to others,
  • -Competence in skillfully performing,
  • -Autonomy in directing effort, according to Columbia’s Heidi Grant Halvorson of Columbia University.
Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink

This model aligns with Daniel Pink’s emphasis on:

  • Autonomy: Controlling work content and context,
  • Mastery: Improving skill in work over time through persistence, effort, corrective feedback,
  • Purpose: Being part of an inspiring goal.Halvorson advocated an incremental approach to “get better” in achieving goals rather than to simply achieve the goal.

Juliana Breines

To move toward “better,” she suggested acknowledging mistakes with kindness and understanding to cultivate self-compassion.
This approach was validated by Berkeley’s Juliana Breines and Serena Chen and University of Texas‘s Kristin Neff, who found that performance in various contexts increased when using self-compassion instead of self-criticism.

Additional ways to move closer toward goals include Halvorson’s suggestions to:

Serena Chen

-Consider the larger context of specific productive actions, 

-Define reasons for doing what needs to be done (such as exercising for 20 minutes, starting on a project),

-Use “implementation intentions,” a formula to prepare responses for challenging triggers:

If “x” occurs (specify time, place, circumstance),
then I will respond by doing, thinking, saying “y.”

    • “When I feel anxious, I will focus on inhaling and exhaling slowly for 60 seconds.”
      “When it’s 7 am, I will walk for 10 minutes,”

Kristin Neff

-Use implementation intention routines (habits) for “strategic automation” to reduce decision-overload that may reduce self-control and will-power,

-Focus on something interesting for five minutes to evoke positive feelings,

-Review “small wins” and progress toward goals.

Teresa Amabile

Teresa Amabile

“Catalysts” and “nourishers” that enable goal persistence were uncovered by Stanford’s Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer‘s study of employees at seven companies:

    • Capitalize on preferred motivational style:
      -“Promotion-focused” (maximize gains, avoid missed opportunities, powered by optimism),
      -“Prevention-focused” (minimize losses, variance, powered by cautious pessimism)
    • Build willpower by committing to one specific, positively-stated behavior change (“walking for 10 minutes a day, every day” instead of “not sitting around all day”)
    • Apply “implementation intentions
    • Protect willpower reserves by selecting  a limited number of achievable goals
    • Enlist “mental contrasting” to think positively about the satisfaction of achieving the goal.
Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck

Halvorson collaborated with Stanford’s Carol Dweck and quoted Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right” to underscore the value of optimistic engagement with goals.

Henry Ford

Henry Ford

They synthesized Dweck’s work on “mindsets” with Halvorson’s recommendations for setting, monitoring, protecting, executing, and celebrating goals.  

An earlier post outlined Dweck’s definitions of mindsets:

• Fixed Mindset:  Belief that personal capabilities are given, fixed, limited to present capacities, associated with fear, anxiety, protectiveness and guardedness,

• Growth Mindset:  View that personal capabilities can expand based on commitment, effort, practice, instruction, confronting and correcting mistakes, linked to nurturing teamwork and collaboration.

Peter Gollwitzer

Peter Gollwitzer

Columbia’s Peter Gollwitzer a refined “mindsets” by distinguishing the Deliberative Mindset of evaluating which goals to pursue versus the Implemental Mindset of planning goal execution.

His team found that the Deliberative Mindset is associated with:

              • Accurate, impartial analysis of goal feasibility and desirability,
              • Open-mindedness.

In contrast, the Implemental Mindset is linked with:

              • Optimistic, partial analysis of goal feasibility and desirability,
              • Closed-mindedness.

Halvorson, Dweck and Gollwitzer’s translated their research on self-determination and motivation into practical recommendations for goal seekers:

              • Adopt a supportive “mindset,”
              • Practice “self-compassion” in addressing setbacks to achieving goals,
              • Design effective triggers and responses,
              • Use “implementation intentions” and “strategic automation” toward desired self-managed goals,
              • Consider incremental progress toward goals.

-*What approaches help you work toward goals?

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