It seems that in the last few weeks more articles than normal have focused on the issue of external and internal (intrinsic) motivation. As you would expect I have an opinion.
Here are some points of view that may help the conversation.
First - motivation is an internal thing. You cannot create motivation - you can create an environment where people are motivated to focus on the objectives you want. This is not a minor point. Many times clients will ask... "how do I motivate my channel, or employees?" You can't. But what I can do is put a program or initiative in place that offers something that will create a motivational desire within the audience. This is why so many programs offer more than one option for awards/rewards. The program is striving to put something in front of the target audience that will drive a change in behavior because they want that "thing."
Quote from the Manage Smarter post:
Never assume that people lack motivation. We often assume that if people aren't doing what we want them to do they aren't motivated. The truth is that people are motivated. They're motivated to do what they're currently doing more than they're motivated to do what you want them to do. When it comes to motivation, it's never a matter of lighting a fire; it's always a matter of helping people restructure their priorities. People already have the fire; it's our job to capture and direct it toward corporate objectives. It's important to understand this view because if you carry around a model that suggests that it's your job to motivate others, you tend to start giving speeches or making threats or creating plaques when you should be trying to figure out why others don't share your priorities.
Second - "extrinsic" motivation - or external motivation is a misnomer. There can only be internal motivation. When you think of external motivation what we're really talking about is influence - what we can do as part of initiative that will influence their behavior. Using such things as consensus, social proof, reciprocity; we can influence someone's behavior. Understand, this is much different than motivation. These are psychological "tricks" that have an effect on behavior that isn't so much a conscious reaction from the audience. Many times it is very sub-conscious.
Generally, people are motivated by rewards. Whether it be money, gifts or status, rewards give us a reason to actually do something. With intrinsic motivation, however, the rewards are different. People are intrinsically motivated by the enjoyment and success of actually accomplishing something.
agree with about 80% of that. However, we have to remember is that a
tangible reward allows the person to recreate the feeling that occurred
after the accomplishment. Memory shouldn't be the only way we
Third - many of the articles talk about recognizing, rewarding, awards, etc. as they were one type of thing. They are not. Rewards are tangible representations of some achievement - either a personal one through goal setting or through a corporate one via a common goal or focus on a specific company value. Recognizing is an act of recognition - it is the process not the item. If I receive an award for achieving a goal but no one knows about it - there is no recognition. Recognition requires an audience. And further - in this industry there is a distinct difference between an incentive and a recognition program. They focus on different objectives. In short - recognition programs typically reinforce cultural norms, incentives focus on individual achievement. This is an opinion - but one that I have been able to apply for 20 years successfully.
There is also a good discussion going on at the Trusted Advisor Associates blog on the "intrinsic/extrinsic" debate (you'll see some comments from me that tie back to this discussion.)
And finally, the reason this issue of intrinsic vs. external modifiers (I didn't want to use the word motivation) may be getting so much attention may be found in this post titled "Managing for Creativity" from Richard Florida's blog. In part the post says...
Use intrinsic rewards to motivate people. Figure out what people crave. Whether it's challenge, excitement, working with great people on great projects, make sure they get it in their jobs and work.
Use performance-based system with clear metrics to hold people accountable. Identify people who make other people more successful and effective. Reward high-performers and stars, not seniority. Coach and mentor average and low performers to make them better. Work on better job fit.
Is the fact that we're moving to a creative economy with more creative work forces making us focus more on the intrinsic issues associated with work motivation? Are we concerned that if we put too much emphasis on rewards with creative types we'll squelch their creativity and internal motivation as Deci and Kohn suggest? Possibly. My thought is that that as we move to a creative work force we have a harder time finding measurable things to reward. Not impossible mind you... just harder.
The issue of motivation is a tough one. There are many competing theories of why people do what they do and there is a lot of confusion on what is motivation and what is really influence. A good discussion on the various theories can be found in the Wikipedia here. You'll see when read through the entry - there's a lot of different points of view.