The Science of Motivation

Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic MotivationWhen leaders want to motivate people in an organization to implement a strategy, it is tempting to use a carrot & stick approach — tie compensation to performance, for example.  Well, it turns out that science has shown over and over again that such extrinsic forms of motivation don’t actually work very well for anything more than straightforward tasks.  As tasks get more complex, intrinsic forms of motivation work better.  Examples of intrinsic motivation include:

  • Autonomy: the personal freedom to act as we see fit to implement a strategy
  • Mastery: the fulfillment that comes from developing a high level of skill in a valued area
  • Purpose: a sense of meaning, value, and making a difference in our work

Leaders who want to get the most from their organizations will need to find ways to build intrinsic motivation qualities like these into their organizational cultures.

In the TED talk below, titled “The Surprising Science of Motivation”, Dan Pink makes the case for leaning toward intrinsic motivation in organizations.  Examples he sites where this has worked extremely well are Google’s 20% time, Results Only Work Environments (ROWE), and Wikipedia.

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