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Introduction to motivation

What motivates us? • 2 min read


The American Psychological Association published a statistical analysis study which collated research in the field of motivation across a 40 year period.


The results from the analysis showed that when it comes to motivating people to complete quality-focused and complex tasks that required creative input, intrinsic motivation was nearly six times more powerful than extrinsic motivation in predicting performance.

 

Introduction

Dips in performance or not hitting our professional goals can often stem back to our motivation, so it’s really important to get some insight around what motivates us.


In this post we’ll look at the concept of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators and the impact they have on our behaviour.


Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is when we are motivated to perform a behaviour because it’s internally rewarding. We find a task enjoyable and satisfying. There are no obvious external rewards at play here.


External motivation is when we are motivated to perform a behaviour because we want to either earn a reward or avoid punishment (“carrot and stick”). External rewards might be salary increases, performance bonuses or delivering a project on time.


Outlined below are some of the common characteristics of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.


Intrinsic motivation

  • Goals are set by the individual

  • Tasks are mostly creative, enjoyable and satisfying

  • Rewards are internal: for example, an experience of fulfillment or a happy customer

  • Psychological needs: driven by a purpose, autonomy and competence


Extrinsic motivation

  • Goals are set by the company

  • Tasks can be routine, dull and mechanical

  • Rewards are external: for example, a performance bonus or salary increase

  • Psychological needs: driven primarily by the outcome


Motivation in practice

Both extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation drive human behaviour.


Here are some practical examples of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation:


Intrinsic motivation

  • Serving a customer because you enjoy solving their problem

  • Scheduling appointments with your customers to help build solutions with them

  • Attending a check-in to help an employee progress within their role


Extrinsic motivation

  • Serving a customer because you need to answer all support tickets within a specific timeframe

  • Scheduling appointments with your customers to hit a key performance indicator (KPI)

  • Attending a check-in to tick a box for the Human Resources Department

 

Key takeaways

  1. Our chances of achieving goals and maintaining a high performance are strongly influenced by two types of motivation.

  2. Intrinsic motivation is when we're motivated to perform a behaviour because it’s internally rewarding.

  3. External motivation is when we're motivated to perform a behaviour because we want to either earn a reward or avoid punishment (“carrot and stick”).

 

Think big, act small


When we understand how intrinsic and extrinsic motivation works and when to leverage each, it can help us perform tasks with a greater purpose.


Reflect on your own role and identify which aspects of it are driven by intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

 

Content sources

  • American Psychological Association, Psychological Bulletin, Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Incentives Jointly Predict Performance: A 40-Year Meta-Analysis, Christopher Cerasoli, Jessica Nicklin, and Michael Ford

  • Drive, Daniel Pink

  • Forbes, Here’s What Happens When Leaders Get Employee Motivation Right, Jim Barnett

  • Harvard Business Review, 3 Ways To Motivate Your Team Through An Extended Crisis, Anne Brafford and Richard Ryan

  • Healthline, Intrinsic Motivation: How to Pick Up Healthy Motivation Techniques, Adrienne Santos-Longhurst

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