In some earlier blog posts I wrote that intrinsic motivation is preferred over extrinsic motivation. Nothing new there, I’m sure. But what is intrinsic motivation? Well, let’s investigate, starting with Self-determination theory.
Self-determination theory is a general model of intrinsic motivation that differentiates between three main intrinsic needs. These needs are universal, innate, and psychological:
- Competence: This is the need for a person to experience oneself as capable in coping with the environment;
- Autonomy: This is the need for someone to actively participate in determining ones own behavior, with autonomous choice of actions;
- Relatedness: This is the need to care for and be related to others, and to be involved in the social world.
Another theory was proposed by Professor Steven Reiss. He found that 16 basic desires guide nearly all human behaviors:
Acceptance, the need for approval
Physical Activity, or exercise
Curiosity, the need to think
Power, the need for influence of will
Eating, the need for food
Romance, the need for love and sex
Family, the need to raise children
Saving, the need to collect
Honor, being loyal to a group
Social Contact, the need for friends
Idealism, the need for social justice
Status, the need for social standing
Independence, being an individual
Tranquility, the need to be safe
Order, or stable environments
Vengeance, the need to strike back
I know that some businesses are quite adept at providing opportunities for eating, sex, and vengeance, but I would prefer to focus on some of the other innate human desires. I believe a number of these can be directly targeted by managers:
- Make sure that people feel competent at what they are doing. Give them work that challenges their abilities, but that is still within their grasp.
- Make people feel accepted by you and the group. Compliment them on their achievements.
- Make sure that their curiosity is being addressed. Even though some activities can be boring, there should always be something new for them to investigate.
- Give people a chance at satisfying their honor. You must allow teams to make their own rules, which team members will follow happily (or sometimes grudgingly).
- Infuse the business with some idealism. You’re not just there to make money. You’re also making a (small) contribution to the world as a better place to live in.
- Foster people’s independence (autonomy). Allow them to be different from other people, with their own tasks and responsibilities. And compliment them on their very original and interesting hair style.
- Make sure that some level of order is maintained in the organization. People work better when they can rely on some (minimal) company rules and policies.
- Make sure that people have some power or influence over what’s happening around them. Listen to what they have to say and help them in making those things happen.
- Create the right environment for social contacts (relatedness) to emerge. There’s usually no need to venture into the romance area, but friendships can easily arise, provided that managers take care of a fertile context.
- Finally, it is important for people to feel that they have some status in the organization. They shouldn’t feel like dangling somewhere at the bottom of a big hierarchy.
You can make it a regular activity to review all ten items on this list, and remind yourself that you need to do something about one thing or another. Such tasks typically fall in the important-but-not-urgent range, meaning that it is easy to forget about them.
Also, when there is a need to improve people's motivation, review this list and try to come up with things that address some of their basic desires. In the long run it will help you much more than a salary raise.
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