What I am Reading… The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement and Creativity at Work, by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer

March 1, 2014

The Progress Principle presents the case of a “disengagement crisis”, where individual employees are increasingly disengaged in the work that they do and as a result, organizational performance suffers.

The authors describe conditions in the workplace as comprising of one’s “inner work life”; a state where positive emotions result, motivation is fostered and favourable perceptions about one’s work life abound (relating to the work itself, their superiors and colleagues).  When the environment is just right, the authors suggest that these three factors can contribute to a positive inner work life and employee re-engagement.  They go on to posit that when nurtured, a positive inner work life leads to joy, creativity and innovation at work; and overall job satisfaction.  The notion is that achieving a positive inner work life will result in extraordinary individual and organizational performance.

Amabile and Kramer present the hypothesis that what comprises meaningful work is progress, catalysts (stimuli that ultimately assist in achieving meaningful work) and nourishers (interactions that inspire employees).

In contrast, the authors describe that a poor inner work life is characterized by setbacks (actions and emotions that negate the value of one’s work), inhibitors (poor consideration for people and their ideas; poor coordination of systems and procedures; and poor communication) and toxins (disrespect, discouragement, emotional neglect and antagonism).

Their proposed antidote to the disengagement crisis is for managers to model positive work life behaviours on a daily basis and thus “re-energize the workplace and revitalize creative productivity” (Amabile T. , 2011).  Their suggestion is that without daily encouragement and nourishment, individual and organizational progress will stall.  The authors also present a Daily Progress Checklist (and other tools) that can assist managers in monitoring their teams progress and setbacks.

Amabile, T. &. (2011). The Progress Principle. Massachusetts: Harvard Business Review Press.

Amabile, T. (2011, October 12). TEDxAtlanta – Teresa Amabile – The Progress Principle. Retrieved from YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XD6N8bsjOEE