Harness the power of intrinsic motivation

In a previous article, I described the three engagement levels. If the first two (survival and extrinsic) are present at all times, this is not the case of intrinsic motivation. In this article, I will detail how to create an environment conducive to develop this type of engagement.

According to Dan Pink, intrinsic motivation is based on three pillars: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Autonomy or independence?

First of all, we must distinguish the autonomy of independence. Independence is egocentric: I act alone, for myself. While autonomy implies acting according my own choice, and can be done in a frame or set of rules.

The simplest example is children. Indeed, they begin to develop their autonomy, like dress alone. It is much later that they become independent: they start living alone, without the support of their parents. Autonomy develops rapidly in early childhood (0-6 years). Then at school, education sometimes reverses the development of autonomy. The child had a strong intrinsic motivation for learning new things, the “Why? ” period. School, and later, the organization; grades, rewards transform this intrinsic motivation into extrinsic motivation. The child wants then to have a good note to obtain a gift, a privilege.

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Finally, the object of my interest goes out of my control: is it in mathematics or in history that I have to bring back a good note? Intrinsic motivation has become extrinsic.

Give autonomy

From a professional point of view, autonomy develops in four aspects: Task, Time, Technique and Team.

  • Do I have the choice of tasks?
  • Can I set up my own work team?
  • Am I limited into the time allotted and especially what time I have to work?
  • Finally, can I choose my method of work, my technique to reach the result?

The more the employee is autonomous, that is to say that he can freely choose each of the four aspects of his work, the more his autonomy, and thus his intrinsic motivation is reinforced.

I already hear the critics: Yes but … it does not work, in the company, I have to tell my team what to work on, and the delay … Otherwise, it’ll be anything … Yes and no … Indeed, If your employees know your mission, your strategic plan, you can trust their judgment and the choice of tasks and deadlines. This is what happens in the liberated companies.

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How far are you willing to go to make your employees more independent? And so, more motivated?

Develop mastery

Perhaps one of the keys to trusting your team is the trust you have in them and their skills. How does the mastery of a domain or a technique develop? With time, and practice. A rule of thumb, in music, says it takes 10,000 hours to become a virtuoso. This is obviously wrong, but this rule shows that you have to spend time there. If a person wants to become an expert, it does not matter how much time and effort it takes to get there, because the flow will help him get to his destination.

As I mentioned in an article about motivation, the question is what kind of goals are set: performance or learning? If we want to return to intrinsic motivation and reduce the impact of grades in school (or in organizations), it is important to set objectives related to mastery, efforts, learning, rather than performance. For example, being able to explain to my grandfather how artificial intelligence works, interacting with a correspondent in another language, … which are then more motivating than examination notes.

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What kind of goal do you attach to your employees? And yourself? Is it related to the result or the way to go to achieve this result?

Find a meaning to your actions

Finally, the sense of action can become a powerful motivator. For example, Blake Mycoskie has created a business model in which, for every shoe sold, he offers one in a developing country. It makes sense of your job as a web developer or operator: you help provide thousands of disadvantaged people with shoes. Your job is then more than a job, it’s a cause.

What value do I bring, what do I create? Often asked during existential crises, or following difficult events, the answer to this question passes by the meaning given to the action.

This is a trait that stands out strongly in the millennial generation. They need to be in tune with the values of the company they work for.

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What do your employees contribute to? Do they see the meaning of your actions? What value proposition do you make to your customers, to your employees?

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