Science of Motivation

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 How are you motivated or how do you motivate your staff?



 Do you use extrinsic motivation? Common extrinsic motivators are rewards for achieving the desired outcome, or the threat of punishment for outcomes Motivation carrot sticknot achieved, commonly called “carrots and sticks”. This style of motivation has been around since day dot, it is used for children, students, employees from all industries and it does work in a small number of cases. At your business are you constantly looking for sweeter carrots or pointer sticks?  

Motivation is often paired as the other side of the coin to procrastination. A common mindset is, if you are not motivated then you are procrastinating. One of the general philosophies of motivation is set small goals and reward on achievement. This works as long as there is motivation to make it work, is that not a chicken or egg solution? 

There have been many studies on motivation one of which involved lawyers who were asked to provide legal Motivation fireservices for low-income persons. One group was asked to provide a service for a low fee $10-20 per hour and the other group were asked to do it for free. The results showed that the group asked to work for free were enthusiastic and willing where the group asked to work for a fraction of their usual rate were unwilling to do so.

Apparently by the offering of a small fee the participants were less motivated because they thought of the work in relation to their normal fee. The group working for no fee were able to enjoy doing the work without seeing it as an economic transaction; doing the work was in itself a reward.

This and other studies have time and again shown that higher incentives led to worse performance. These studies were conducted by some of the great economists of our time at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Chicago and the London School of Economics. At LSE the economists said: “We find that financial incentives can result in a negative impact on overall performance.”  

There is a discrepancy between what science knows and what business does; policies and decisions are being formed based Motivation A M Pon long held and out-dated assumptions. The solution is not in enticing or threatening people, it is an approach built on intrinsic motivation containing the elements of autonomy (the urge to direct our own life), mastery (the desire to continually improve) and purpose (to be part of something larger than ourselves).  

Intrinsic motivation is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual. It is the desire to do things because you want to, because you are part of something important or because you like it or find it interesting. Examples of success: 

Regularly the Software Company Atlassian, gives their engineers 24hrs to work on any project they choose, as long as it is not part of their job. These days deliver software fixes that might never have existed without the freedom of autonomy.

At Google the engineers are given 20% of their time to work on anything they choose. Each year half of all new products such as Gmail or Google News are created in this 20%.

The inspiration for this post came from listening to Daniel Pink talking about his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. An interesting and compelling perspective definitely worth reading or listening to.


 In conclusion: If you are using carrots & sticks to motivate your employees the chances are you are destroying their creativity and therefore their motivation. Science confirms that increased performance comes from that unseen intrinsic drive of autonomy, desire and purpose the drive to do things because they matter.


Change how you operate and change your world.Motivation

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