“Incentivizing the Creative Process: From Initial Quantity to Eventual Creativity” by Professor Michael Williamson
Professor Michael Williamson
Professor of Accountancy
College of Business
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
We conduct a two-stage experimental study to examine the effects of different incentive schemes on highcreativity production. Our primary finding is that, relative to alternative incentive conditions that reward high-creativity production directly, establish a minimum creativity screen, or provide fixed pay, simple quantity-based incentives generate the greatest number of ideas that meet a high-creativity rating threshold. Importantly, this finding does not occur at the time of our first-stage experiment when the incentives are in place, but rather arises ten days later at the time of our second-stage request for additional creative ideas. We test alternative process measures to help interpret this result, obtaining the strongest mediation support from a measure of first-stage divergent thinking, which we capture from the number of first-stage submissions that differ from the patterns suggested in the instructional examples. Our mediation results suggest that, relative to the other conditions, participants with quantity-based incentives attain an initial advantage in different ideas that leads to an eventual advantage in high-creativity ideas.