3 Forces of Intrinsic Motivation

3 Forces of Intrinsic Motivation

What motives you?

Daniel Pink’s work on motivation is likely the most well known, the most quoted, and the most discussed in management circles. We tend to think that we are either motivated by a fear of punishment or the excitement of a reward; the positive and the negative, the carrot and the stick. All of these forms are extrinsic, and they work only in certain situations. In fact, rewards can backfire in certain situations.

Instead, Pink concludes that we are more motivated by intrinsic motivation, the desire to do things because they matter. This completely upends the traditional thinking about motivating behavior. We have a desire to be part of something important, something larger.


Study: In 8 our of 9 tasks Dan Pink examined, higher incentives led to worse performance.”


Pink argues that we are motivated by other forces: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Autonomy. This is the need to self-direct.

Mastery. This is the intrinsic motivation to get better, to master a skill.

Purpose. This is the ability to connect to a larger cause. And, according to Pink, it’s the highest form of motivation.

These 3 forces are especially powerful in motivating the knowledge workers and the creatives.

How are you using the shifting nature of work and the research on intrinsic motivation in your organization? Are you changing the way you incentivize employees?


“Questions are often more effective than statements in moving others.” –Daniel Pink


“Especially for fostering creative, conceptual work, the best way to use money as a motivator is to take the issue of money off the table so people concentrate on the work.” –Daniel Pink


“One of the best predictors of ultimate success…how you explain your failures and rejections.” –Daniel Pink


“Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.” –Daniel Pink


“Anytime you’re tempted to upsell someone else, stop what you’re doing and upserve instead.” –Daniel Pink


“The course of human history has always moved in the direction of greater freedom.”


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Stick With It

Photo courtesy of istockphoto/Greg Epperson

Lee J. Colan, Ph.D. is a leadership consultant and the author of 12 books, the co-founder of The L Group, and a popular speaker.  His latest book, co-authored with his wife Julie, is Stick with It: Mastering the Art of Adherence.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Lee a few questions about his new book and his extensive experience working in the field of leadership, strategy execution and employee engagement.

Lee, this book is an updated version of a previous bestselling book of yours: Sticking to It.  What led you to update it?

Well, Skip, we had been applying the Adherence Equation for 10 years:


Black and White Equation for print


We learned from and worked with our clients to hone and develop new tools that support adherence (defined as consistent execution), and we wanted to share our learnings.  Even though I wrote 10 other books during that time, the Adherence Equation still seemed to resonate with organizations of all sizes and industries.  Truth be told, that first book remained my bestseller.  Clearly, I should have stopped after my first one!

I finally decided, with the better judgment of my business partner and wife of 25 years, that we should take our own medicine and FOCUS.  So, we have poured our best stories, examples and tools into this expanded and enhanced follow-up that serves as a roadmap for consistent execution.

Here is the essence of the Adherence Equation:www.stickwithitbook.com

Focus provides the clarity necessary to make decisions that support your most important goals. It results in a clearly defined pathway to success. A sharp focus answers the “what” question – What do you need to do to execute your strategy?

Competence is used in the broadest sense of the term. It encompasses all the skills, systems, processes and tools a team uses to achieve its goals. The result is the ability to commit to, measure and hit your targets. Building competence answers the “how” question – How will you execute your strategy?

Passion creates a sense of connectedness. It creates a connection between teammates, a connection to our human need for meaningful work and a connection to each individual’s sense of value and contribution. Igniting passion answers the “why” question – Why are you executing your strategy?