Theories in Human MotivationProducers and executives need to understand what motivates their creative team.  Research shows that creative people tend to be motivated more by personal fulfillment than monetary gain.  This article will help you understand what motivates artists and how their needs differ from conventional workers.  Once you understand what motivates them, you can learn how to work with them effectively.

Theories in Human Motivation

Psychologists have put forth numerous theories to explain what motivates people.  One of the most famous examples is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Figure 1 shows the structure of Maslow’s theory.  Essentially, Maslow states that humans need to meet basic survival needs before they can reach full potential.  The most basic needs are physiological needs and personal safety.  The next most important need is love and belonging.  After that, the person is free to work on esteem and ultimately self-actualization.

The creative mindset often differs from this model.  Many creative individuals are motivated more by self-actualization than by the pursuit of basic needs.  We have all heard of the “starving artist” who is willing to sacrifice health and financial security for the sake of art.  Some creative people go so far as to rebel against perceived safety and security restrictions, engaging in risky behaviors.  Understanding how creative individuals differ from non-creative people is essential when trying to discover what motivates them.

Another psychologist named Clayton Alderfer expanded on Maslow’s Need Hierarchy with his Existence-Relatedness-Growth (ERG) Theory.  Existence encompasses basic survival needs such as food and shelter.  Relatedness includes social relationships and family.  Growth refers to intellectual curiosity, achievement, and self-actualization.  Alderfer’s theory included a concept called “frustration regression,” which can occur when people fail to achieve higher goals.  This failure can cause them to turn their focus back to lower needs, like self-indulgence and monetary gain.  In creative individuals, this regression can manifest itself as excessive drinking, drug use, and gambling.

Artists have a strong need for personal fulfillment.  Thus, their primary motivating factors are self-actualization, autonomy, teamwork, socializing, and esteem.  That is why many creative people will work long hours for very little pay.  Even though many artists are willing to work under these conditions, it would be immoral to take advantage of them by imposing unreasonable demands while paying them very little.

Professor Robert Sternberg expanded on Alderfer’s theory with his own, arguing that creativity is a confluence of six factors.  The factors are intellectual ability, knowledge, style of thinking, personality, motivation, and environment.  According to Sternberg, creativity is more than just the summation of these factors.  The factors can interact in ways that either enhance or detract from creativity.

Motivating Creative IndividualsMotivating Creative Individuals

When working with artists, some extrinsic forms of motivation are more effective than others.  Controlling types of extrinsic motivation have a negative effect on creative production.  Examples of controlling forms of extrinsic motivation are compensation for an undesirable job, lack of creative freedom or autonomy, and fear of evaluation and replacement.

However, informational extrinsic motivation and support has a positive effect on creativity.  Examples of supportive extrinsic motivation include adding additional resources, providing training, and allowing creative freedom and autonomy.

The timing of supportive external motivators makes a difference in the outcome.  In the beginning stages of the project, intrinsic motivational factors are the most important.  The artist must be sincerely interested in the project during the development phase.

However, as the project progresses, well-timed extrinsic motivators in later stages can enhance the final outcome.  It is particularly important to provide support during the research phase.  Additionally, when selling and packaging the product, it is important to provide external validation.

Applications to Film Development

All of this can be applied to film production as you work with your creative team of writers and directors.  Research indicates that the most important consideration when choosing a writer is genuine interest in the project.  As you now know, personal satisfaction is one of the most powerful motivators for creative individuals.

No amount of money will properly motivate a disinterested writer.  Involving a writer who is not interested in the project will almost certainly result in a poor outcome.  In fact, very high pay rates may be demotivating, as writers may feel like they have been bought. They would prefer to feel like they are truly valued.  Writers who are highly paid but have little creative freedom view themselves as “hacks.” They have replaced their intrinsic motivation with extrinsic monetary motivators, inevitably leading to a sense of dissatisfaction.

Creating a secure environment for your writers is important.  Many writers fear replacement, though not typically for monetary reasons. They are usually concerned that they will not receive any credit for their work.  Thus, providing a feeling of security is key to increasing creative output.  Your writer will not work well if he or she constantly fears evaluation and dismissal.

Support your writer’s vision and allow as much creative freedom and autonomy as possible.  Teamwork and a sense of belonging are important considerations for creative types.  So, it is essential to make them feel like they are a part of the team.  If you have chosen a writer who is passionate and interested in working for you, it shouldn’t be a problem to place your trust in him or her.  Rest assured, if the writer is passionate about the project, there isn’t a more powerful motivator that you can provide.

Remember that every person and situation is different.  Use your own judgment when determining how to best motivate your creative team.  However, this article should give you a better understanding about common personality traits shared by many creative individuals.  With some consideration, you should be able to find a writer who is passionate about the project, and if you create a secure environment that encourages creative freedom and autonomy, you are likely to get a great end result.