The latest update from Imagine!’s Leadership Development Group (LDG), submitted by LDG member Ally Joel.
What is motivation? And why is it important? Identifying what motivates us and how to foster more of it depends on the task at hand, who we are, and what changes we are willing to make, at least according to Daniel H. Pink, author of “Drive.”
Imagine!’s Leadership Development Group chose “Drive” as one of the three books we will read over the course of the year. I found it to be useful to better understand how to harness my own motivation, and how to foster an environment that enables employees I supervise to harness their own motivation.
Pink classifies motivation into two categories: carrots and sticks and intrinsic motivation. Carrots and sticks may very well be the type of motivation we are all most familiar with—if we perform a task well, we are rewarded (carrots); if we perform a task poorly/fail to perform a task, we are punished (sticks). This approach can serve as temporary motivation, however, Pink reveals that intrinsic motivation can be a more sustainable form of motivation, in that it is driven by performing the task itself, because perhaps there is a higher need for humans beyond being praised and reprimanded.
In 1949, Harry F. Harlow, a psychology professor from Wisconsin University, and his students conducted a test with rhesus macaques, a species of monkey, to solve a puzzle. Contrary to the field’s prior understanding of motivation, Harlow found that the monkeys who were not given tangible rewards completed the puzzle quicker and with fewer errors compared to the group of monkeys who were given tangible rewards.
Based on this study, and his interest in human behavior/motivation, a student of Harlow’s, Abraham Maslow, later developed the field of “Humanistic Psychology,” which combatted the commonly accepted carrots and sticks approach to motivation. Bridging the gap between Maslow’s new motivational theory and the workplace, Douglas McGregor, and MIT management professor who studied Maslow’s behavioral theories, proposed that “people have other, higher drives…And these drives could benefit businesses if managers and business leaders respected them.”
So, businesses gave it a go. Businesses began embracing new approaches to foster motivation among their workforce. Google, for example, used autonomy as a motivational strategy by suggesting that employees spend twenty percent of their time on a personal project (related to the company). Because Google created an environment that fostered autonomy and thus, intrinsic motivation (creating one’s own project), projects such as Gmail, Google Talk, and Google Translate came to fruition. This tells us that with the right structure, people can innovate, continue to challenge processes, and enjoy day-to-day work just because they want to.
Now I ask, what motivates you? How can you contribute to a motivated workforce to better the services of people living with I/DD?
Food for thought.