The buzzword: motivation (part 2)

Post written by Orsolya Hernold

Knowing what I would like to do and why I would like to do it is a great step towards personal development, understanding myself. I would like to dig deeper in the realms of motivation, and introduce you the book of Daniel H. Pink: Drive. Mostly it is business focused, it is worth to read it if you have a company, are a leader or work in HR. I am sure you will be surprised at the knowledge social scientists gathered over the last decades that business leaders continue to disregard.

The main message of the book is that the motivating factor of reward and punishment is outdated. The author calls this external motivation the “if – then” model. If you perform this task, then you will receive this reward. If you fail to perform this task, then you will receive a punishment. Sounds familiar? This kind of external motivation works with tasks with a clear set of rules using only mechanical skills (e. g. in manufacturing), but has a negative impact on performance when the task needs creativity. Surprisingly, many times it is counterproductive to offer a reward, indeed. (To understand why, read the book.) If you insist on rewarding someone for a task completed, use the “now – that” model: Now that the task is well performed, here is your reward. In this case, the performer does not know about the reward beforehand.

I am thankful to Pink to include an appendix about the motivation of children. Otherwise, I might have forgotten the direct implication of his message in my life. I almost never used punishment with my children as a means to get my will across, but rewards were part of my tools in parenting. You get this chocolate if you let me do the shopping, I will play with you if you tidy your room, and the list could go on. Now I use these phrases much less, and my children know if I ask them to help me in the housework there is no reward promised beforehand. When the task is completed, I approve of it verbally, give them much positive feedback, and maybe they also get something. However, it has not been so easy to switch me off from my habitual way of rewarding. I needed to figure out a trick to arrive at this solution, and please my reward-liking self: I give them small gifts, treats many times, but I do not need a reason for that, they receive them for the sole purpose of their existence and my love.


(The major part of the book is about our intrinsic motivation, well worth for the read.)


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