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A New Approach to Workplace Motivation

By Jami Gibson

When it comes to workplace performance, so many business models are built on extrinsically motivated reward systems. It seems like the greater the reward, rather money or recognition, the more motivated employees are to complete the task at hand. Therefore, the greater the reward, the better the performance, right? According to Daniel Pink, famed author of Drive and A Whole New Mind, this is not always the case, especially when it comes to the creative problem-solving needed to accomplish tasks in today’s work environment.

In his 2009 TED talk, Pink discusses how incentives narrow our focus and thwart our creativity in most cases. For simple problem-solving where there is one solution, rewards can and do work. However, in most real world instances, the solution isn’t always clear-cut, and there are many avenues to arrive at an answer. This is where incentives can do harm to our creative processes as it doesn’t encourage employees to think outside the box. Pink presents facts from experiments that have proven over and over that extrinsic rewards do not provide the motivation to increase work performance. So if extrinsic motivators are not the answer, what kinds of intrinsic motivators lead to better performance?

A higher level or performance can be reached by creating business operations that revolves around autonomy, mastery, and purpose. This means employees gain motivation from doing things that matter, that are important, and that are part of the bigger picture. They are given the freedom to find solutions to tasks and to perfect their craft. Pink gives examples of how this type of work model has led to great inventions like Gmail, Wikipedia, and Google News.

Daniel Pink’s approach to motivation seems opposite from what most businesses use to increase performance. But he has proof that his model works. Watch his presentation below to hear how some organizations are benefiting from intrinsic motivation approaches.

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