Rethinking Motivation

Michael Kogutek

Michael Kogutek

Historically we have come to believe in the “carrot and stick” approach to rewarding our work force. Time for another look!

Harry Harlow, Ph.D., was a professor at the University of Wisconsin. In 1949, he conducted an experiment with monkeys to study motivation. The monkeys were given a puzzle to solve and were not rewarded in any way. On the 14th day, the monkeys became quite adept in solving the puzzle code. Harlow concluded that the drive of the monkeys were internally motivated. This study went virtually unnoticed for about 20 years.

Edward Deci,Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. Deci in the 1960’s replicated Harlow’s study with human subjects. He corroborated Harlow’s findings and advanced the Self Determination Theory furthering the notion of intrinsic motivation.

Daniel Pink in 2009, in a book titled “Drive” reviews the literature on motivation in the business world that includes the above two studies. He puts forth a new view on the nature of rewards in human motivation. He states that we are internally motivated by three principles: (1) Autonomy – People want to have freedom and control over their work. (2) Mastery – People want to be more proficient at what they do. (3) Purpose – People desire to belong to something bigger than them. Pink mentions companies like 3M, Atlassia, Meddius and Zappos taking the above principles and applying them to their corporate milieu.

It is time to consider the role of intrinsic rewards in our managerial world of non-profit organizations.

Author:  Michael Kogutek, Executive Coaches of Orange County, www.ECofOC.org