How to Motivate Creative People – Interview with Mark McGuinness

markportraitI first got to know about Mark McGuinness via his work at Lateral Action (he co-founded Lateral Action with Brian Clark  and Tony Clark) and was fascinated by his thinking. After that I read more from him and was equally fascinated by his work outside of Lateral Action. He has released a very interesting eBook titled “How to Motivate Creative People(Including Yourself)”

Whether you consider yourself creative or not, you will learn a lot from this book. You can download the book here:

Wishful Thinking: How to Motivate Creative People (Including Yourself)

Here is a quick Q&A about the background for the book:

RS: Mark, what made you write this eBook?

MM: The initial idea came from hearing managers asking how they could motivate people when the economic downturn meant they couldn’t offer big pay rises or bonuses. To me, it sounded a strange question — we all need money to survive, but I don’t think most people are primarily motivated by money. And that’s particularly true of people in ‘creative’ professions, who typically have a real passion for the work itself.

So I wrote the e-book to get managers and leaders to think about forms of motivation other than the carrot and stick — such as an inspiring challenge, the chance to make a difference, or to gain recognition and boost their reputation.

If you look at the research into creativity, there’s a lot of evidence that intrinsic motivation (i.e. satisfaction in doing work for its own sake) is critical to high-level creativity. So if you really want to get outstanding performance out of people, you have a much greater chance of success if you focus on intrinsic motivations — such as an exciting challenge or learning something new — instead of just financial rewards. And the good news is, it doesn’t necessarily cost the earth — just a little imagination on the part of the manager.

A great example of this came from Tim Siedell, a creative director who left a comment when I published one of the chapters on my blog. He described talking to one of his employees, who was feeling creatively frustrated. When Tim asked what he enjoyed doing outside of work, the guy said he’d always wanted to learn the guitar. So Tim bought him a guitar and a course of lessons — and to judge from the effect ‘you would have thought it was a five figure bonus’.

RS: The book says it is for creative professionals. When I read the book, I think it applies to everyone. Why the distinction?

MM: Most of my work as a coach and trainer is with creative professionals, broadly defined — i.e. people who make creativity central to their work. So it made sense to write about what I know best. A few people have made the same comment as you — that the book has a much wider application, which I’m delighted to hear.

I see the distinction as one of degree. As I say, most people are motivated by job satisfaction as well as money, but creative types are well known for taking this to extremes. For example, many of them are prepared to work for very little money for a chance to do work that is intrinsically satisfying or that allows them to build their reputation.

RS: You talk about four kinds of motivation – intrinsic, extrinsic, personal and inter-personal. Why should someone care how they are motivated?

The book is primarily written for managers and leaders, whose job it is to inspire and motivate people. So I think it’s important for them to consider different types of motivation, so that they can get the best out of people with different personalities, skills and core motivations. There is a danger that we can assume everyone is motivated by the same things we are — so I really want managers to consider the whole spectrum of different types of motivation.

I also want the book to be useful for anyone who wants to make the most of their creative talent. Understanding your own motivations not only promotes healthy self awareness, but it also means you know how to maintain your enthusiasm and energy for your work — especially during challenging times.

RS: I know Lateral Action is one project you are working on. What next for you Mark?

Well, we have big plans for Lateral Action, and we are only really getting started — if you have an interest in creativity, productivity and entrepreneurship then you can sign up for plenty of free inspiration via RSS or e-mail.

As for me personally, right now I’m excited about a new training course I’m developing around storytelling. And I have another secret project in the pipeline… if any of your readers would like to hear about my new projects as they are announced, they can subscribe to my Wishful Thinking blog or follow me on Twitter:

RS: Thanks Mark.

MG: Thank you Raj, for your interest and the great questions, they made me take a fresh look at my own motivations for writing the e-book!