Emotional Wellbeing TED-Ed Series | The Surprising Truth about What Motivates us

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Carrots and sticks as a technique to motivate people to higher and higher levels of performance do not work for every tasks. Even more money for high performance may not always work. What motivates you?

People are not as manipulable and predictable as you would think.

The ‘carrot and stick’ theory of motivation says that  if you reward someone, motivation increases but if you punish you get less motivation for them to do that thing again.

As an experiment if you give a repetitive mechanical task to a group of people where monetary reward is based on the number of units produced, it is highly probable that some people will produce a low number, some a middling number and some will produce many units and get the highest reward.

If the task requires even a low level of cognitive skill, the lowest and middle level groups of people perform about the same, but the previously high group fails to perform as well.  This result is not a ‘fluke’ finding, and can be repeated with other groups and where the monetary rewards are very significant.

The conclusion is that ‘carrott and stick’ motivation only works for mechanical repetitive tasks, but not for tasks requiring some level of thinking process.

If people are not paid enough they will be de-motivated. If properly paid they will think about what they are doing and be more effective. See Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory.

Three factors lead to better performance, job satisfaction and motivation.

1. Autonomy – the desire to be self-directed

2. Mastery – the urge to get better and become a recognised expert. People will also provide work for free, e.g., Linux and Wikipedia contributors.

3. Sense of Purpose  — makes work more satisfying and attracts talent into organisations that offer this type of environment.

People can be ‘sense purpose maximisers’ as well as ‘profit maximisers’. Profit, detached from purpose can lead to poor products and services.

Do you feel you on a treadmill to keep increasing your levels of achievement and your mental health is being affected?

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