Saturday, October 2, 2010

Three Factors That Motivate Us

The other day one of my colleagues showed my a video called "The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" from a group called RSA. It is a must see for business leaders wanting to understand how to truly motivate their companies, teams, and employees.

One of my other favorite things about this video is the medium the RSA used to deliver their message. The video is creative and dynamic.

After watching this video, I learned an interesting concept about what truly motivates us.

Video Recap

The video discusses research about the concept that if you reward something you get more of the behavior you want and if you punish something you get less of the behavior you want.

The Federal Reserve Bank commissioned research from a group of economists from MIT, University of Chicago, and Carnegie Melon to understand and challenge the above concept.

They took a whole group of students and gave them a set of challenges. Things like memorizing strings of digits, solving word and spacial puzzles, and physical tasks. To incentivize their performance they gave them they gave them 3 levels of rewards. The top performers got the biggest reward.

As long as the task only involved mechanical skill, bonuses worked as expected the higher the pay the better the performance. Once the task asked for rudimentary cognitive skill, conceptual and creative thinking a larger reward lead to poorer performance.

They did their research again in Madurai, rural india. Same experiment and same result. So how do we truly motivate and increase the performance of workers who perform daily cognitive skills without providing incentives that lead to poorer performance?

Three Factors That Lead to Better Performance and Personal Satisfaction

The above research suggests providing an environment where the following three factors exist:

1. Autonomy: What motivates us is our desire to be self-directed, the idea of not being told everything to do. If you want engagement, self direction is best.

2. Mastery: This is our motivation to get better. Getting better at skills in work and life is very satisfying. Create an environment where employees can continually get better at their skills and jobs.

3. Purpose: Change the focus from a profit focus to a purpose focus. When profit is the only focus, you get average products, services, and other things. The founder of Skype wanted to be disruptive in way that would make the world a better place. Make sure each employee understands the true purpose of your business and not just the profit.

About the RSA

The RSA seeks to develop and promote new ways of thinking about human fulfillment and social progress. Here is a link to their website and You Tube channel.

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