The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work
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(17 customer reviews)
As Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer explain in The Progress Principle, seemingly mundane workday events can make or break employees' inner work lives. But it's forward momentum in meaningful workprogressthat creates the best inner work lives. Through rigorous analysis of nearly 12,000 diary entries provided by 238 employees in 7 companies, the authors explain how managers can foster progress and enhance inner work life every day.
The book shows how to remove obstacles to progress, including meaningless tasks and toxic relationships. It also explains how to activate two forces that enable progress: (1) catalystsevents that directly facilitate project work, such as clear goals and autonomyand (2) nourishersinterpersonal events that uplift workers, including encouragement and demonstrations of respect and collegiality.
Brimming with honest examples from the companies studied, The Progress Principle equips aspiring and seasoned leaders alike with the insights they need to maximize their people's performance.
- Amazon Sales Rank: #6378 in eBooks
- Published on: 2011-07-19
- Released on: 2011-07-19
- Format: Kindle eBook
- Number of items: 1
"The book...is one of the best business books I've read in many years." Daniel Pink
"But in singling out one book that offers the most important message for managers this year, I recommend The Progress Principle. The breakthrough in knowledge it provides makes it my choice as best business book of the year. This a pioneering work on employee engagement, with lots of memorable examples culled from those in-the-trenches diary entries." The Globe and Mail
"You will never return to the older and outmoded theories of employee motivation again." Blog Business World
"When Bob Sutton, a leading management professor at Stanford University, says a new book "just might be the most important business book I've ever read," the rest of us should take notice. Sutton is right. The Progress Principle is...fantastic. I am a big fan of this book, and I have decided to make it one of the alternate end-of-semester book assignments for the master's students in my introductory public management course this fall." Steve Kelman, Federal Computer Week
"This is the roadmap to how to create progress, even baby steps through small wins, and therefore create a culture that supports a meaningful and joyful "inner work life", which is the secret to great leadership and harnessing the best of employee psychology." Innovative Influence (Suzi Pomerantz's Blog)
"Those who appreciate the work of people like Dan Pink (Drive), Chip Conley (Peak) should seriousl...
About the Author
Teresa Amabile is a professor of Business Administration and a Director of Research at Harvard Business School. The author of numerous articles and books, including Creativity in Context, she has long studied creativity, motivation, and performance in the workplace.
Steven Kramer is a developmental psychologist and has co-authored a number of articles in leading management periodicals, including Harvard Business Review and the Academy of Management Journal.
Most helpful customer reviews
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful.
By Robert I. Sutton
I read an advance copy of The Progress Principle several months back, and I just went back and read the book again. I am even more impressed this time than the last. Four things struck me in particular:
1. While most management books are based on anecdotes, the biased recollections of some famous executives, or on research that is presented as rigorous (but are not... Good to Great is a perfect example), the Progress Principle is based on the most rigorous field study ever done of creative work. And it draws on other rigorous work as well. As a result, the overall advice about the importance of small wins may be known to many people, but once you start digging into the smaller bits of advice about how to keep work moving along, the evidence behind those is very strong. In my view, the Progress Principle is the best example of an evidence-based management book I have ever seen.
2. The authors didn't drown in their rigor and the details of their work. They worked absurdly hard to write a book that is quite engaging to read and chock full with one implication after another about what you can do right now to do more effective work and to motivate it in the people around you.
3. Finally, the main point of this book may seem obvious to some readers, but if you listen to most management gurus and fancy consulting firms, the approach that the authors suggest is actually radically different. The broad sweep of strategy and radical change and big hairy goals is where much of modern management advice focuses, yet the finding from this book that it is relentless attention to the little things and the seemingly trivial moments in organizational life that real makes for greatness is not something that most leaders and their advisers get, yet it is the hallmark of our most creative companies like Pixar, Apple, Google, IDEO and the like. The implication of The Progress Principle, for example, that management training should focus on how to deal with the little interactions and smallest decisions -- and that is what makes for great leaders and organizations -- would, if taken seriously, mean completely revamping the way that management is taught throughout the world.
This book isn't a bag of breathless hype, it doesn't make grand and shocking claims, and it doesn't promise instant results. But it is fun and easy to read, it is as strongly grounded in evidence as any business book ever written, and it is relentlessly useful because it points to little things that managers, team members, and everyone else can do day after day to spark creativity and well-being. And it shows how those little things add-up to big victories in the end. I believe it is one of the most important business books ever written.
In the name of full disclosure, I am friends with the authors and did endorse the book. But I am friends with a lot of authors, but when they write bad books, I decline endorsement requests, and as I did very recently, let them know that I think their books aren't very good. Yes, I am biased, but I believe that this book deserves to be a #1 bestseller.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful.
Need to find the progress
By Dr Cathy Goodwin
When I was an academic engaged in research, I was familiar with Teresa Amabile's work. She was and is a respected researcher who studies creativity in organizational settings. So I was eager to read this book and intrigued by the notion of small wins.
The book shows the author and her team conducted impeccable research. They found that people who were fortunate to engage in work they found meaningful, and who were appreciated and valued for their work, also were productive and creative. They noted the importance of emotions during the day. They emphasized that organizations will, often unintentionally, kill creativity and create a workplace where people flee.
My biggest question about the book was, "Who should read it?" The authors observe that an organizational environment is created by a confluence of forces coming together. It's rarely the case that one person can change the culture, although the CEO can make a huge difference, as shown by the story of Xerox's Anne Mulcahy. Yet will company CEOs and divisional VPs actually read the book and, if they do, will they have the skills and resources to make changes? Does the book provide enough direction to make change?
In any company there are so many ways a company can create negativity; if nothing else, success can make a workplace stressful. I've met people who say the culture of Microsoft has become more like established business than a start-up. I once worked for a company where a new CEO wanted to create more employee involvement, yet many employees saw the new activities as intrusive; they wanted to do their work and go home and "bonding" was not important. The lesson is that desiring to create a culture of positivity isn't enough; there are many places to slip in the design of change as well as the implementation of any program.
It seems that employees have to figure out how to survive and thrive in a variety of cultures and/or become more skilled at assessing a culture before joining an organization. The authors say they tested personality traits of the subjects they studied, but I kept wondering whether some people were just naturally positive and happy and therefore more creative. I know a few people who never met a job or a boss they didn't like. They didn't let things get to them. I always envied those people and wondered how the rest of us can learn their adaptation styles. I'd also wonder whether there's a way to balance a stressful job situation with positive activities off the job, or whether those outside activities just made the job seem worse in contrast.
Finally, while I think the book makes a contribution due to the extensiveness and quality of the research, I am not sure what's new here. As the authors say themselves, Alice Isen and others have studied the impact of mood extensively. We know that happy people perform better in a number of ways. Arlie Hochschild's studies of emotional labor have also contributed to our understanding of workplace emotion.
The book jacket refers to the importance of small events, and indeed subjects in the study were asked to describe events in their day that were mostly small. But some examples were huge, such as Mulcahy's turn-around at Xerox. The authors give examples of companies known as great places to work; it's unclear how the overall culture is based on small things. Meaningful work doesn't seem small. I'd have liked to see more discussion of incremental effects and how employees as well as front-line managers can influence them.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful.
Ground-breaking research that shatters the conventional wisdom of what truly motivates workers.
By Paul Tognetti
The researchers themselves never saw it coming. When Teresa Amabile of the Harvard Business School and her husband developmental psychologist Steven Kramer decided to collaborate on a study exploring worker creativity through the eyes of those in the trenches who actually perform the work they simply had no idea of the secrets they were about to unlock. Typically, studies are done exploring topics like employee productivity and creativity from the point of view of upper management. The methodology that Amabile and Kramer chose to employ for this project would prove to be a bit unconventional to say the least. The authors were primarily interested in determining exactly what it is that motivates top performers. They were able to recruit 238 people from 26 project teams in 7 companies in 3 different industries. The participants were professionals whose work required them to solve complex problems creatively. What made this study truly unique was that at the end of each workday the participants were e-mailed a diary form that included several questions about their work experiences on that particular day. Much to the authors' surprise an overwhelming majority of the participants responded on a daily basis. Furthermore, they recorded their experiences and impressions in a far more candid way than expected. Amabile and Kramer had unwittingly stumbled upon a previously unexplored world. The insights that they gained from this remarkable undertaking is the subject of their new book "The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work". Many business books can be rather dry and a chore to read. But much to my surprise this book was different. I simply could not put it down.
If you are a manager or team leader seeking optimum performance from the people you oversee then listen up. Conventional wisdom would have you believe that it is primarily things like salaries and benefits, bonuses and recognition programs that motivate individuals. While these are certainly important the authors unearthed the fact that what matters most to employees is what they dub the "inner work life". Amabile and Kramer define inner work life as "the confluence of perceptions, emotions, and motivations that individuals experience as they react to and make sense of the events of their workday". In the 12,000 diary reports submitted for this study the authors discovered that they possessed a veritable goldmine of information. They had real-time access to the workday experiences of lots of people in a variety of different departments and organizations over an extended period of time. In "The Progress Principle" you will be able to experience the ruminations of these workers first-hand and in the process you will discover the secrets that motivate people to be the best that they can be. Furthermore, you will be able to compare and contrast the experiences of those who were employed by truly great organizations and managers who encouraged autonomy, set clear goals and furnished the resources necessary to succeed with companies whose managers and team leaders stifled creativity, constantly put obstacles in the way and were generally apathetic towards members of their team. As the title of the book suggests what truly motivates today's sophisticated and highly trained workers are those "small wins" that indicate that progress is actually being made on a problem or project being worked on. Managers and team leaders need to adjust to this new reality if they expect to achieve the kinds of positive results they are looking for.
One of the major reasons that I found "The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work" to be so darn compelling is that along the way I have worked for both types of organizations. Chances are that you have too. The clues are unmistakable and once you have the basic precepts of the book down the reactions of these employees become highly predictable. It is precisely why certain organizations thrive even in difficult economic times while others wither away on the vine. "The Progress Principle" is chock full of useful tips and strategies that managers and team leaders can implement right away. Furthermore the authors include a simple daily diary that managers and leaders can employ to assess how they are doing. Utilizing this tool just might turn out to be the most important five or ten minutes a leader can spend each day. "The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work" just might be the best business book that I have ever read. This book will challenge much of what you think you know about managing people while offering interesting alternatives to the way you have been doing things. A totally engaging read from cover to cover. Very highly recommended!
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