What went wrong with Motivation

What drives us? What makes us want to do our very best and keep doing it? What is the fuel that bolsters productivity? Many would say the will to survive. That would be correct only if we were living fifty thousand years ago as a cavemen. That was our drive, our source- Motivation 1.0 the operating system of that society. However, now as we have progressed and formed countless complex systems and intricate societies. We upgraded to Motivation 2.0. Motivation 2.0 was a second drive that we have. That is, to seek reward and avoid punishment. Harnessing motivation 2.0 has been essential to economic progress around the world. The way to improve performance, increase productivity and encourage excellence would be to reward the good and punish the bad. The only way to get us moving would be to dangle a crunchier carrot or for managers to wield a sharper knife. We are better then livestock, and Pavlov theory on classical conditioning may had its merits then not now. Let me tell you why. For a starter, we are human beings, not dogs.

Motivation 2.0 still works but due to its capricious nature, we must upgrade. It has become incompatible with the stark reality of the 21st century. We will cover three main incompatibility problems:

  • How we organize what we do
  • How we think about what we do
  • How we do what we do

How we organize what we do

In the current era open source information is king. Everyone looks on to Wikipedia for information, Mozilla Firefox to surf the internet and the most sophisticated IT departments use open source operating system software such as Linux. Why? Open source platforms depends on intrinsic motivation.  MIT management professor Karim Lakhani and Boston Consulting Group consultant Bob Wolf surveyed 684 open source developers and found out that intrinsic motivation on the project that person is working on will have the strongest and pervasive influence on that person. Open Source information may not be the norm but their emergence tells us something important about where we are heading.

How we think about what we do

We as people are irrational and predictably so, says economist Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, a book that offers an entertaining and engaging overview of behavioural economics. We leave lucrative jobs to take low-paying ones that provide a clearer sense of purpose. We work to master the clarinet on weekends although we know we will not make a dime or acquire a mate from doing so.  Motivation 2.0 assumes we are robots that only want to maximize our wealth but in reality we are not. Extrinsic motivation cannot drive a person alone. Intrinsic motivation has to be there as well.

How we do what we do

Today, incentivizing and purely monitoring staff carefully like a hawk, will not suffice for maximum productivity. For a large number of people now, jobs have become more compounded, more interesting and more self-directed. These type of jobs presents a direct challenge to the assumption of Motivation 2.0.  Now jobs requires critical thinking, solving novel problems or creating something the world didn’t know it was missing. Researchers say that intrinsic motivation is conducive to creativity; controlling extrinsic motivation is detrimental to creativity. In other words, the core principles of Motivation 2.0 may actually impair performance of the heuristic, right-brain work which modern economies depend on. Work has become more enjoyable thus the need to monitor and control people has become obsolete. This directly challenges Motivation 2.0 as Motivation 2.0 advocates monitoring.

In a nutshell, Motivation 2.0 doesn’t mesh with the way many new business models are organizing what we do as we are intrinsically motivated purpose maximizers. It doesn’t perform with the way that economics thinks about what we do as we are irrational human beings not robots. Drawing on 4 decades of research on scientific research, Daniel H. Pink, exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what we are doing at work. Contact us at office@driveworkshopinasia.com, and we can conduct a “Drive” a 2 days training session based on Dan’s book, the surprising truth about what motivates us, here in Indonesia or in Asia. Find out more about the program on this link.

Musaib E

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