Motivation Triggers: No More Carrots and Sticks

Reflect back on a time when you were coerced to accomplish something vs. accomplishing a goal because you were inspired to. The difference between “make this grade or fail” and “mastering this will improve my life.” The difference between “the fastest wins” and “I can accomplish this task how/when I desire by the deadline.”

Which feels better?

Seem like a silly question? Then why do we default to employing carrot/stick approaches with our learners instead of inspiring them to be internally motivated?

The differentiation between extrinsic (external) vs. intrinsic (internal) motivation leads us to believe that we can only influence external forces. According to Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, we can influence internal forces as well applying their Self-Determination Theory.

Nutshell:  “Ask not how we can motivate people. Ask how we can create the conditions for people to motivate themselves.” (Deci)

Creating those conditions requires we ask ourselves the following questions:

  • How can I tap into my learner’s perspective? What is their internal frame of reference about this topic?
  • How can I offer choice? Where can the learners participate in decision making?
  • How can I incorporate exploration, allowing learners to extend their understanding based upon their interests?
  • How can I encourage self-initiation? How can I offer opportunities for learners to experiment with ideas on their own?
  • How can I relay the rationale for accomplishing these learning objectives? What meaningful reasons can I provide supporting the importance and relevance of this subject?

These insights not only apply to motivating learners – they can easily adapt to motivating SMEs to adopt evidenced based instructional design practices or speakers to improve their delivery at our conferences. Extrinsically motivated behaviors that have been personalized and fully internalized bridge the external/internal motivation barrier.

Trigger intrinsic motivation by creating the conditions that will inspire action. As Dan Pink will attest, sweeter carrots do not lead to better outcomes. We must swap compliance for self-direction to truly inspire motivation.

For more on these conditions, check out Deci’s Tedx presentation and Pink’s book, Drive.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *