Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

I read another book!

One day I’m going to have to come up with something to put in this “Aim to Improve” category other than the professional development books I read, but for now this is what I’ve got so it’s going to have to do.

This book was a quick and easy read. To me, it felt like it was stating the obvious but it was still interesting and for sure worthwhile, particularly since it only took like two hours total to get through it. The basic idea is that Motivation 2.0, otherwise known as the “carrot and stick” method, or what most companies use to motivate employees today, isn’t effective for work that requires creativity and innovative thought.

The reason for this is that most people have their own, intrinsic motivation for doing things that they enjoy or perceive to be challenging. Once you tie an action to a reward, i.e. “if you solve this puzzle I’ll pay you five dollars,” it takes away the intrinsic motivation and replaces it with less powerful, extrinsic motivation. As a recent graduate, this resonated with me in regards to English classes. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but knowing that I have to read a book automatically makes it significantly less enjoyable than reading that same book because I want to.

And that’s the whole premise of the book: intrinsic motivation is more powerful than extrinsic motivation.

Interestingly, providing extrinsic motivation can actually ruin intrinsic motivation. In one study, a group of kindergarteners were observed and researchers chose a subset who seemed to enjoy drawing. They then split those kids into three groups. One group was told they’d receive a certificate if they drew a picture, one group was told draw a picture and then received a certificate (without being told in advance that they would), and the last group was told to draw a picture but didn’t receive a certificate at all. Two weeks later, the researchers observed the students in class. The kids who were told in advance they’d receive a reward no longer chose to draw on their own accord, but students from the other two groups still did. In other words, offering rewards and bonuses can actually hurt motivation in the long run rather than help it.

Even though this seemed obvious to me, it was really interesting to discover the science behind it. And it’s definitely something to keep in mind for the future!

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