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Posted on March 2, 2020
Updated on October 13, 2021

Creativity and Motivation


We are motivated by a range of needs. These needs have been written about in many ways over the years. In TA  terms, Fanita English (1987) called the basic needs "drives":

  1.   Survival (self-preservation drive)
  2.   Creative (excitement drive)
  3.   Sleep (drive to rest)

She believed that any two may be allied and may even be in conflict with the third or exclude the third. These drives influence our development, our thoughts, feelings and behaviours in the present.

Eric Berne called these drives:

  1.     Stimulus or sensation
  2.     Recognition
  3.     Structure

Berne’s terminology for these was “Hungers”. These hungers were the motivating force for human beings. Berne gave weight to interpersonal relationships which D'Amore (1997) argues became distorted by later writers, who believed that seeking strokes was the primary motivating force. Strokes therefore took on a primary position within Transactional Analysis theory and people appeared to be hunters on the look out for these.

Between 1953 to 1957 Berne wrote that the child perceives the world as having the possibility for threat or satisfaction. He linked three aspects of motivation - biological, psychological and cultural.  In the late fifties and early 60’s he wrote:

“Both superego and Parent imply that a portion of the external world had become an integral part of the internal world”

(Eric Berne quoted in D’Amore 1997)

Berne then noted that we could be motivated from any ego state to ask questions. If we needed reassurance we could be unaware of this and instead manipulate for this from our Child ego state, instead of seeking information on the part of the Adult ego state.

For English, the creative drive links with Berne’s stimulus hunger. Freud only thought of this as the sexual drive but English highlighted the need for human beings to be curious, playful, excited, to have adventures and take risks. These can of course have both positive and negative outcomes.

An example of the combinations of drives might be a busy person working hard and drinking lots of coffee to keep going.  In this instance they would be excluding the sleep drive and using their survival drive to perhaps look after themselves and/or their family be increasing their finances, and their creative drive to develop their project. However, when a person excludes a drive they may well find that they start to become ill, become depressed, or are forced to stop to rest in some way or other.

These drives will also be of influence between leaders and followers. Leaders would be more inclined to exclude the sleep drive, whilst followers are more inclined to exclude creativity. This develops symbiosis, and has dangers in creativity being turned  to fuel aggression. An example of this is individuals collectively becoming a hostile crowd.

Self-Managed Teams

Self-managed teams need to be aware that in order to reach the desired goal they need to be able to solve problems as they arise. This means that they need to be aware of each person’s skill, knowledge and creativity for doing so. Trust is therefore required in order to develop a non-threatening atmosphere where each person is accepted and their skills etc. acknowledged.

These teams need to know what to do when there are difficulties with other team members. For example, when an individual withdraws or goes passive and “rides” on the back of other team members. In self-managed teams, it is the team and not the manager who will need to know how to deal with such behaviour before resentment develops and motivation and creativity subside.

When the whole person is accepted this frees up the psychic energy of the individual and the team.

As creativity, intuition and imagination come from the Little Professor or A1 and spontaneity comes from the Natural Child ego state, there also needs to be sufficient emotional safety within the organisation for these aspects of the personality to be expressed.

Contract making is a part of the infrastructure of team work. In traditional settings, contracts were one-sided where a person could be told what to do, and when to do it. Self-managed teams change this, and it is even more imperative that there is a positive dynamic stroking culture.

Whether self-managed teams or managed teams it is important that ideas, contributions, skills and knowledge are recognised so that individuals will be more motivated to work together to achieve goals for which they hold themselves accountable, and which are bigger than they could achieve by working on their own. 


Alder H., 1995, The Right Brain Time Manager, Piatkus

Berne E., 1985, What Do You Say After You Say Hello, Bantam Books

English F. 1987, Power, Mental Energy and Inertia, TAJ 17:3

D’Amore I.1997, The Source of Motivation and Stroke Theory, TAJ 27:3

Freedman L.D., 1993, TA Tools of Self-Managing Work Teams, TAJ 23:2

Wickens P. 1995, The Ascendant Organisation, Macmillan Business