Workplace Recognition and Incentive Programs

Power of Intrinsic Motivation

Posted on March 29, 2010 by Carl Bonura in Uncategorized

Daniel Pink in his book Drive says that people would prefer activities where they can pursue three things.

1. Autonomy: People want to have control over their work.
2. Mastery: People want to get better at what they do.
3. Purpose: People want to be part of something that is bigger than they are.

Or as Leadership Consultant, Wally Bock, states, “This matches research that I’ve done with class members for over twenty-five years. They discuss a time when “it was great to come to work” and then create a description of what those times are like. The descriptions vary slightly in wording but always include the following.

Interesting and meaningful work
Clear and reasonable expectations
Frequent and usable feedback
Maximum control possible over work life

I’m describing the kinds of workplaces where intrinsic motivation happens. Pink is describing three things that provide that kind of motivation. In most highly effective workplaces, it’s the boss that is the most important force creating an environment when intrinsic motivation can happen.”

Top management sets the basic compensation and benefits structure. If that isn’t perceived as fair and consistent, natural intrinsic motivation won’t kick in.

It’s your individual supervisor who has the biggest effect on your daily working environment. That’s why there are pockets of excellence in otherwise horrible companies and why even the best companies have workers who are unhappy and teams that are unproductive.

In the real world, intrinsic and extrinsic motivators and their effects interact. You don’t have a simple choice of which lever to pull. You have to understand and influence a complex system. To equate compensation as the only extrinsic motivator ignores praise, promotion, preferment (in scheduling), the admiration of peers, time off, and a host of other positive incentives.

Key Ideas that matter:

Key Idea: There is a difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Key Idea: Intrinsic motivators are more powerful.

Key Idea: If you use monetary rewards to get people to perform the way you want, those rewards may have the opposite effect.