The Elusive Benefits of Mind Wandering: How Incentive Scheme and Task Structure Facilitate Creative Incubation in a Multitask Environment
43 Pages Posted: 10 May 2019 Last revised: 25 Jul 2019
Date Written: April 18, 2019
We use two experiments to investigate how incentive scheme and task structure influence creative incubation in a multitask environment where participants perform both creative and simple routine tasks. In our first experiment, where participants are given the discretion to switch between a creative and a routine task, we find that creativity-based incentives generate the most incubation benefits in terms of the greatest number of high-creativity ideas compared to quantity-based incentives and fixed wage. However, we find little evidence that incentive scheme itself can effectively “nudge” individuals to self-select into an incubation period. In our second experiment, we examine whether randomly assigning participants to switch between tasks can achieve the incubation benefits we observed in our first experiment. Results suggest that the performance advantage under creativity-based incentives disappears when the task environment is structured in a way that forces an incubation period. Taken together, our results suggest that employees need both the right incentives and self-insight with regard to the right switching time to gain incubation benefits in a multitask environment. Further, the simple way to impose an incubation period can backfire, as the interruption costs may outweigh the incubation benefits once the switching is forced during creative production.
Keywords: creativity, incentive scheme, multitask environment, quantity vs. quality incentive, task structure, creative incubation
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