Combining creativity and control: Understanding individual motivation in large-scale collaborative creativity

Paul S. Adler, Clara Xiaoling Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent research has shown that management control systems (MCS) can improve performance in contexts characterized by high levels of task uncertainty. This seems to conflict with a second stream of research, which argues that MCSs risk undermining the intrinsic motivation needed for effective performance in such settings. To solve this puzzle, we build on theories of perceived locus of causality and self-construal and develop an integrative model summarized in 15 propositions. To explicate our proposed solution and to show its robustness, we focus on the class of activities we call large-scale collaborative creativity (LSCC) - contexts where individuals face a dual challenge of demonstrating creativity and embracing the formal controls that coordinate their creative activities with others'. We argue that LSCC requires the simultaneous activation of intrinsic and identified forms of motivation, and simultaneously independent and interdependent self-construals. Against some scholarship that argues or assumes that such simultaneous combinations are infeasible, we argue that they can be fostered through appropriate attraction-selection-attrition policies and management control systems design. We also show how our propositions can enrich our understanding of motivation in other settings, where creativity and/or coordination demands are less pressing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-85
Number of pages23
JournalAccounting, Organizations and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Information Systems and Management


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