Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Motivation to match your personality...we are not all the same!

Back to that difficult, tricky topic of motivation.  Let's do a little historical review of motivation.  We all come with a basic motivation or drive based on our survival.  We have that primal drive for food, water, rest and yes expanding the species (we are going to avoid the conversation of whether some people are increaseing or diluting the gene pool with certain combinations).  We are all hard wired with the drive or motivation to find food (apparently some more than others) and to sleep to allow our bodies time to recover.  Things start getting tricky after we get past this first level of motivation.  For years it was thought that besides this primal drive there was really only one other source of motivation,  'the good old carrot and stick' motivation.  If you want to promote increased motivation you simply dangle a carrot or reward out in front of the person and we blindly go after the carrot, but if we don't move there is always the stick to poke us or smack us (negative feedback).  And so it has gone for hundreds of years, we either put a reward (carrot) out in front or we stand ready with the stick to punish bad behavior, but that motivation came from external sources.  A couple of  'out of the box' thinking pshycologists started floating out ideas that maybe humans had another type of drive or motivation that was not related to environment, primal drives and wasn't tied to external drives (carrots & sticks).   As with anyone who questions "what we know" these ideas were laughed off for several decades.  But a couple of brave new psychologists picked up the research and dusted it off.   They did some very interesting research that showed not only do "carrots and sticks" (external rewards) not alway work but that sometimes they actually DECREASE performance.  Imagine that the very thing that is supposed to motivate us actually decreases outcomes, but how can this be?  Does it always apply?  Is it time to throw away carrots and sticks? 

It turns out that as with all things the type of motivation necessary depends on the type of person and the task to be completed.  They found that external rewards work for certain people and certain tasks.  There are certain people out there who are motivated by external rewards.  They are the Donald Trumps of the world, if he does a certain deal he can make a certain amount of money, the higher that amount the more motivated he is to accomplish it.  Now, obviously, there are certain very successful people out there in this category.    External rewards have also been shown to be beneficial when a task is redundant. But, there is another group of people who actually perform worse when there is a bonus on the line. If the task is to be creative then external rewards can actually decrease performance.  For example, if you commission a painting and want the most creative piece of work imaginable and you offer a bonus for finishing early, the research has shown a decrease in the quality of the painting because the painter is now focused on the bonus, not creating the best piece of art possible.  It seems that this group is actually more motivated by internal rewards than external rewards.  These people do things because they want to demonstrate mastery.  The prefer autonomy over schedules and tasks to the highest financial gain.  The best reward for them is recognition as a Master and honored for their accomplishments.  They crave that internal sense of knowing that they have conquered the task with a creative solution, especially if it is one that no one else had or saw.   Now, these people are fine with increased income but as a secondary accomplishment to creating something unique.  These people prefer unexpected 'Now, that' rewards.  "Now that you accomplished this great thing here is a Reward." but you have to be careful with these if they become expected then they become the external "if, then" rewards.

So, are you an "X" motivated by external rewards or an "I" motivated by internal rewards?  (We won't worry about the "P"s that are motivated by Primal Drives as they won't be reading this any how).  Is the task that you need to do creative or routine?  The best way to get motivated for a task is to match you personality to your task at hand and set up the right type of reward. 

If you want to read an amazing book about the research in this field check out "Drive: the surprising truth about what Motivates us." by Daniel H. Pink.

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