Giving social recognition awards, such as plaques etc, to try and inspire or reward creativity, isn't going to be the best approach to take. Researchers suggest that using social recognition rewards isn't going to be as effective as offering money might, for inspiring creativity, according to a study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
When it comes to individuals who might want to reward those that are working for them for example, to try and incentivize great work and dedication from them, those individuals aren't likely to value a plaque as much as they do some good old fiat cash. As far as placing a premium on imaginative, unique, and creative work, social recognition rewards might not be the best route for enhancing creativity, cash might be best.
This finding goes against previous discussion on the topic...
"The general consensus in the research literature on creativity is that money hurts creativity,... But most of that prior research was conducted with children as the test subjects, and the participants were not specifically told that the reward was for being creative. So what is it about the contingency of rewards that impacts creativity, and would adults respond to all types of creativity-contingent rewards the same way?" - Mehta, professor of business administration at Illinois.
They researched the impact of monetary rewards with creativity, against social recognition rewards for the connection with creative performance. They concluded that a monetary reward, simply giving people cash, was better to help induce a clear performance focus, it prompted people to try and be more original and creative.
So in other words, if you tell someone they will get a fancy reward or trophy etc for being creative, compared to when you tell them to be creative and that they will get money in-return for that effort, they are more likely to be motivated by the money.
Why Is This The Case?
Researchers say it's because of the pressure that is associated with trying to fit in with others, not wanting to rock the boat and seem too out there or radical.
"As adults, we don't want to come up with something that's too radical, too out-there, especially when we know that our peers will be judging us,... Most of our daily activities as working adults are about adhering to social norms. We don't want to stand out too much." - Mehta
He suggests that with social recognition rewards, it involves having people know about your work, and it influences the individual to act more in-line with social norms that exist.
But when you introduce cash into the mix, people want to try harder, get more creative, and blow the competitors away as far as creativity goes and coming up with something original. This could be why cash has a closer connection to creativity than social recognition.
"When you ask someone to be creative, you're asking them to be transgressive, to think beyond social norms and thought processes that are not automatic, That's why a social-recognition reward kills creativity, because it makes creators more risk-averse. It appeals to conformity, to not standing out, which drives you to the middle, not the edge. It compels you to fall in line with social norms, and there's less motivation to be creative." - Mehta