Measuring and Motivating Quantity, Creativity, or Both


  • We gratefully acknowledge funding from the Eugene and Dora Bonham Fund, the University of Texas University Research Institute, a McCombs School of Business Research Excellence Grant, and support to the first author from the Charles T. Zlatkovich Centennial Professorship in Accounting. We received helpful comments on previous drafts from Abbie Smith (editor), an anonymous reviewer, Harry Evans, Robert Freeman, Michael Gibbins, Jeffrey Hales, Matthew Hall, Gary Hecht, Jessen Hobson, Karim Jamal, Bill Kinney, Lisa Koonce, Volker Laux, Sean Peffer, Geoff Sprinkle, Shankar Venkataraman, Lynda Walker, Greg Waymire, Alan Webb, Heather Wier, Jen Winchel, David Woods, participants at the 2007 Journal of Accounting Research Conference, the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Accounting Association, the 2007 Global Management Accounting Research Symposium held at Michigan State University, the 2007 Annual Meeting of the Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand, and from accounting workshop participants at the University of Alberta, Australian National University, the University of New South Wales, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Texas at Austin. We also appreciate the technical assistance provided by Morrie Schulman of the University of Texas at Austin Division of Instructional Innovation and by Todd Pinney of Turning Technologies, Inc., who provided and tailored the application of radio-frequency response devices for use by our creativity raters.


We examine how worker productivity differs when compensation is based on quantity, creativity, or the product of both measures. In an experiment in which participants design “rebus puzzles,” we find that combining quantity and creativity measures in a creativity-weighted pay scheme results in creativity-weighted productivity scores that are significantly lower than those generated by participants with quantity incentives alone. Follow-up analysis indicates that relative to participants in the quantity-only condition, participants in the creativity-weighted condition produce approximately the same number of high-creativity puzzles, but produce significantly fewer puzzles overall. Thus, while participants rewarded for creativity-weighted output tend to restrict their production to high-creativity efforts, they are unable to translate this focus into a greater volume of high-creativity output. Implications address a possible explanation for firms' reluctance to incorporate creativity measures within multidimensional performance measurement systems, notwithstanding published suggestions to do so.