A new operating system: the things that really DO motivate us

I’ve read a lot recently on motivation, the things that motivate us, and new ways of thinking about and changing human behaviour; especially in the workplace.

The old operating system, it seems, is Motivation 1.0. The bedrock assumption that underpins Motivation 1.0 is carrots and sticks. In other words, the way to improve performance, increase productivity, and incite excellence is to reward the good and punish the bad. And the greatest reward of all is, of course, money. Pay them more money, and you’ll get more out of them.

Like MS-DOS, this operating system is outdated and antiquated. What’s more, in 2009 scholars at the London School of Economics analysed fifty one studies of corporate pay-for-performance plans. Their BIG conclusion = “We find that financial incentives can result in negative impact of overall performance”. Yep, that’s right, “negative impact”. Why? Because Motivation 1.0 is great for rewarding mechanical tasks – which is why it worked great for the industrial age – and not so great [even bad] for rewarding tasks that require creativity, self-expression, and meaningful engagement.

If the new operating system has a different operating platform, it’s called ‘intrinsic rewards’. Unlike Motivation 1.0, which is based on extrinsic rewards [like money], the new operating system – which I shall call Motivation 2.0 – gives you a feeling that money can’t buy; literally.

The binary code for Motivation 2.0 are creativity, ingenuity, responsibility, craftsmanship, and empowerment. The way it motivates people is to re-awaken their deep-seated sense of ‘autonomy’; their desire to do good work, and their innate capacity for self-direction [as opposed to being directed and supervised by their managers]. ‘Autonomy’ is pretty much a direct route to ‘engagement’, the Holy Grail of Leaders, Management and HR.

Motivation 2.0 also comes with two essential upgrades, like game extension packs if you like. The first is called ‘mastery’, and the way it motivates people is by tapping into their deep-seated urge to be totally awesome at something. The feeling called ‘flow’, which comes from being engaged and immersed into being the master of something. And everyone is a master of something, given the space, the time, and the opportunity to ‘work’ it.

The second upgrade is called ‘purpose’, and the way it motivates people is by acting as an emotional catalyst – a rallying cry – that has the power to mobilise people’s energy. It’s about standing for something, contributing to the world, and having a fucking good reason for getting out of bed at 7am on Monday morning. The bottom line = talented people want to be part of something meaningful, and have the opportunity to ‘make a positive difference’ – a phrase which sounds trite, but is fundamentally right.

Like a potato that sits in the dark corner of a shed, and slowly starts to sprout, Motivation 2.0 is totally powered by deepest-seated intrinsic motivators, and is fuelled by our natural growth towards self-actualisation [“to be potentially who you really are”].

And as the stem of the potato sprout gets longer and longer, it grows towards the one tiny speck of light shining through the crack in the roof of the shed. Not only does it move towards the light, it grows towards the light. In the same way, people grow towards the light. And Motivation 2.0, in a nutshell, is that light 🙂

Richard Sauerman
Richard Sauerman
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