Are you motivated by what you think motivates you?

We’re currently working on the design of an employee communication programme so, perhaps selfishly, this animation of Dan Pink’s talk at the RSA in January 2010 is remarkably useful in considering the configuration of communications in a way which delivers a sense of fulfillment and purpose for an internal audience.

But if you take a look at the video of the talk, Mr Pink offers some stark conclusions about the role of financial incentives as a means of motivating people; conclusions which seem counter-intuitive to the way incentives within brands and businesses are organised today.

For instance, Mr Pink points to plenty of evidence demonstrating that financial incentives tend, over time, to lead to lower levels of productivity and performance. In contrast, however, when software developer Redgate trashed the traditional financial bonus scheme, sales actually rose. And how can it be that Wikipedia and Linux have proved so successful when their very existence is due to the time and goodwill invested by individuals who receive no financial compensation whatsoever?

His conclusion is that there are other – more compelling – reasons that motivate people; financial incentives have just become the default motivational setting for organisations. Perhaps optimistically, he suggests that, so long as people are paid enough that the question of fair pay is resolved as a potential issue, organisations will benefit from the resulting pursuit of autonomy, mastery and purpose.

It is this latter point – purpose – that is seeping into the lexicon of brands these days. The profit motive, while remaining a vital objective for businesses, isn’t all that motivational for most people. But the profit motive, as a consequence of a greater sense of purpose, is.

To monkey around with Mr Pink’s own example, it’s the difference between turning up to a workplace where you’re expected to be motivated by the idea of increasing market share by 0.5% this year, and turning up at your desk to help change someone’s life for the better (and grow market share by 0.5% as a result).

So which one would motivate you more?

2 thoughts on “Are you motivated by what you think motivates you?

  1. Is part of the issue that Monetary reward is an easy thing to measure/account for.
    Other forms of motivation take time and you don’t always know what is working and what isn’t.

    Like

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