Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Motivates Us

According to Dan Pink's talk at the RSA, illustrated by RSA Animate, money is not a great motivator for complex tasks. Money is a good reward for simple, repetitive work, but it's a hindrance in motivating complex work.

(This ties into another study I've read that says that past roughly $50,000 per year, happiness and salary decouple. In other words, increases in money don't lead to greater happiness. This is true even of lottery winners -- after half a year or so, people's happiness levels drop back to what they were before they won it all.)

Instead, "pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table," and from that point on, the most effective motivators are Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. These 3 factors lead to better performance and personal satisfaction in work.

The 3 Factors For Motivation (After The Money Problem Is Met)

Feeling like you are self-directing puts your skin in the game

The urge to get better at stuff leads us to enjoy video games and musical instruments, and it works at jobs too

Having a larger vision that your effort fits into connects profit with direction, which guides you towards doing better things.

A perfect example of this? The journal entry I'm writing now. After working all day on my computer, I felt motivated to stay on the computer past my bedtime because of these three things. It was my idea to share the article so my autonomy made it that much more exciting to do so. I felt a certain job about mastering the concepts and solidifying them by sharing them in my journal. And sharing this and other ideas fit into my overall purpose of trying to understand how the world works and sharing it in a digestible way to the people around me.

The trick, then, is how to apply this approach to your actual life. How do you find a job that encourages autonomy, mastery and purpose, or how do you apply those factors to the things you do outside of work that would make those activities more fulfilling and productive?