The Progress Principle

Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work
by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer | 272 pages

Teresa Amabile is the Director of Research at Harvard Business School. It’s pretty much impossible to read a book on business, creativity, or happiness at work and not run into her research. She wrote this book with her husband, leading developmental psychologist Steven Kramer. In it, we learn the secret of joy, engagement and creativity at work. Hint: Small wins! On (important distinction) meaningful stuff. Big Ideas we explore include the power of our “inner work life,” the 3 key influences to optimizing it (progress, catalysts, nourishers) and how to get on the progress loop and stay on it!


“How could other companies possibly aspire to this [Google’s] double nirvana of business success and employee delight?

Our research shows how. And the secret is not free food or athletic facilities. The secret is creating the conditions for great inner work life—the conditions that foster positive emotions, strong internal motivation, and favorable perceptions of colleagues and the work itself. Great inner work life is about the work, not the accoutrements. It starts with giving people something meaningful to accomplish, like Google’s mission ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’ It requires giving clear goals, autonomy, help, and resources—what people need to make real progress in their daily work. And it depends on showing respect for ideas and the people who create them. …

This book reveals just what that means—for any enterprise. We have written the book for leaders and aspiring leaders curious about inner work life and what they can do, day by day, to support the kind of inner work life that leads to extraordinary performance—an inner work life marked by joy, deep engagement in the work, and a drive for creativity.”

~ Teresa Amabile & Steven Kramer from The Progress Principle

Teresa Amabile is the Director of Research at Harvard Business School.

It’s pretty much impossible to read a book on business, creativity, or happiness at work and not run into her research. (Check out the Notes on these great books for a few references: Little Bets, Smartcuts, The Rhythm of Life, and Fail Fast, Fail Often.)

Amabile has been conducting research for over 30 years. She wrote this book with her husband, Steven Kramer, a leading developmental psychologist who has authored a number of articles for the Harvard Business Review.

The data on which this book is based was collected from hundreds of employees from a number of different companies in the form of 12,000 diary entries in which the individuals reflected on their experiences at work that day—shining light on what Amabile calls their “inner work life.”

What did she find?

Well, here’s The Progress Principle in a nutshell: “Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.”

Want to feel great and perform at a high level? Create and celebrate small wins on a daily basis. Let’s take a quick look at how to go about doing that, shall we?!

Quick note: The book (get a copy here) is based on a Harvard Business Review article called The Power of Small Wins that you might also enjoy!

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About the authors

Authors

Teresa Amabile

Professor & director of research at Harvard Business School.
Authors

Steven Kramer

Independent researcher and writer in Wayland, Massachusetts.