There is a pervasive belief that time pressure stimulates creativity. This is both true and false.
There are a number of forces at work:
a) Time pressure increases creative output. By forcing idea production, setting goals and incremental deadlines, a greater number of ideas are produced than if a “do your best” approach is taken. If a leader asks particpants in an idea generating session to address a problem and think of at least 5 ideas every half an hour, then 80 ideas are produced by one individual and 1600 are produced by 20 individuals at the end of an average working day. This level of output is conscious and would not be produced normally.
b) Time pressure encourages prolific production and therefore the probability of generating good ideas increases. It can be said with great confidence that quality of output is closely related to quantity. The best single creative product tends to appear at that point in the career when the creator is being most prolific.
c) Forcing output pushes individuals along the experience curve, refines their methodology, builds competencies and knowledge and improves performance. Screenwriters know that they are likely to produce more, better quality work faster if they set themselves a schedule of a certain number of pages per day.
d) Motivation is critical to creativity. If a person is intrinsically motivated, time pressure may be a synergistic extrinsic motivator. If the person is not intrinsically motivated then it may turn out to be a non-synergistic extrinsic motivator, which reduces the level of engagement in the endeavour.
e) Short term time pressure may be bad in that it does not allow the mind to engage in the endeavour at various cognitive levels. It does not allow rich ideas to formulate through the process of incubation. Intrinsically motivated individuals will benefit from short term time pressure and goals (sets cognitive forces in motion) and will generate richer ideas through incubation over the longer term.