Are You Using the Right Motivation Strategies?

24 08 2009

What is the most effective way to motivate people? Does it depend on the task and situation? Do motivation strategies change from person to person? Dan Pink asks these and other questions in a very inspiring TEDTalk on the surprising science of motivation.

The main point?

Incentives DO NOT WORK!

Dan argues that unless you have a clear-cut task with a set of pre-determined steps and rules, giving someone an incentive to win or be faster (e.g. a monetary reward) will usually not only be unhelpful but often also harmful. Carrots and Sticks do not work anymore. People working only for a reward will often produce worse results than when not presented with any incentive.

Using psychological research to back up his claims, Dan Pink suggests a better alternative may be an open-minded search for solutions, whether in a group or with an individual, concentrating on intrinsic motivations. Intrinsic motivations, as the name suggests, come from within the individual. They put the employee or the team member in the centre of the work process by letting them decide how they’re going to tackle the problem. The three key components, Dan argues, are Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

How is this useful?

Whilst Dan focuses on the premise of businesses not utilizing the scientific evidence and being stuck in the traditional management phase, I believe that Dan’s discussion pertains to the individual in a great measure as well. You, as an individual, should use his ideas.


Do not limit your scope of focus. Let go of prejudices you may have about the range of solutions for a certain task and be open-minded. We’re talking about the often-mentioned thinking outside the box. Anybody can provide a fresh perspective and the fact that you’re not an expert does not disqualify you from coming up with the best solution. This is especially important for the younger generation just entering the workforce. True, we may not have the same expertise and experience. But if we try hard and make use of all our knowledge, we may produce more innovative solutions than someone who works solely for the reward. We are, afterall, highly motivated from within to prove that we are worth the hype about Generation Y.




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