Incentivizing the creative process: From initial quantity to eventual creativity

Steven J. Kachelmeier, Laura W. Wang, Michael G. Williamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In two experiments, we examine whether performance-contingent incentives facilitate the creative process by enhancing the initial preparation that precedes creative incubation. The defining characteristic of both experiments is a second-stage task that is separated in time from the first-stage implementation of different incentive schemes. In Experiment 1, the second stage takes place ten days after we implement conditions with quantity incentives, high-creativity incentives, incentives with a minimum-creativity threshold, and a fixed-pay control condition. In Experiment 2, we test the effects of incentives with an incubation period of 20 minutes, during which an experimenter escorts participants on a walk between compensated work periods. In both experiments, we find that participants with quantity incentives outperform the high-creativity production of their fixed-pay counterparts only in the second-stage task. Mediation analyses suggest that quantity-incentivized participants’ propensity to try more divergent ideas in the first stage sparks their creativity advantage in the second stage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-266
Number of pages18
JournalAccounting Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2019


  • Creative process
  • Incentives
  • Incubation
  • Long-term production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


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