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Intrinsic Motivation

September 28, 2010

Please welcome another guest blogger, Greg Anderson, a Product Marketing Manager at Kronos, Inc.

I’m not a business book guy. I currently have six sitting on my desk with perfectly undisturbed spines, and a bit of dust. But through my involvement in an initiative at my current employer I stumbled upon the link below, which is an abbreviated look –  using extremely clever and entertaining white board animation from RSA –  of “Drive” by Daniel Pink. I immediately ordered the book. Good, quick read … I highly recommend it.

There are several discussion points within the book worthy of deep analysis and debate but I find myself wrapped around intrinsic motivation, the idea that once our basic needs are met, people want to do a job well, that people derive joy from a job well done. “Drive” provides numerous studies to support the supposition, and multiple caveats to narrow the scope– ‘basic needs’ are self-defined and usually mean salary & benefits on par with industry average; traditional ‘carrot & stick’ motivation has dulled people’s intrinsic motivation; there are some situations where pure intrinsic motivation does not work – but if for the sake of discussion we accept the theory, my 10th grade English teacher and several bosses should be fired.

 Too often, the leaders in my past used fear – of being embarrassed in front of schoolmates, of being caught in the next lay-off – and reward  – an ‘A’ grade or $$ bonus – to motivate. I went from loving to read and debate books my freshman year to hiding in the 5th row in sophomore year; from working with peers freely to recording the contributions of each team member so that the proper credit was given. The end result was I was highly motivated to find a school and a place of employment that was more aligned with my philosophy.

The author doesn’t suggest, nor do I intend to imply, that extrinsic motivators have no place in the work place. But organizations that rely solely on monetary reward and poor job reviews as motivators are being surpassed by those that recognize that there is another way, one that recognizes that many people desire a level of autonomy and a sense of purpose, and that on our own we seek mastery for the pure joy we feel upon attaining our goal.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Takayuki Iida permalink
    November 17, 2010 6:37 pm

    Hi Frank. You make a wonderful point about how you can apply what you’ve read to real life work situations. I also believe that knowledge in common business topics can produce real benefits.

    Your points about extrinsic motivation bore some striking similarities to an anecdote by Zig Ziglar. Ziglar says that he once helped a woman come to love a job that she hated, by having her write down all the things she did like about the job, such as being paid well, having health insurance, a short commute, etc. She was instructed to read the list aloud to herself every day, and lo and behold, she became a much more satisfied employee!

    As a manager, you or I might hear this and think that it’s a wonderful idea, and try it out on our own employees. After all, Ziglar is, if nothing else, good at convincing people. However, to the current you, armed with some knowledge of organizational behavior, will see that this approach addresses Herzberg hygiene factors / Alderfer existence / extrinsic motivators only, and does nothing to address intrinsic motivation factors that create employee engagement and lasting satisfaction. You can therefore now come up with a sounder plan to help your employees perform better.

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