!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Intrinsic Motivation

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Intrinsic Motivation

In three previous posts, I've talked about how important it is to match people as far as possible to jobs they find appealing. When you do this, you take advantage of the power of intrinsic motivation — the desire a person has to do something for its own sake.

A related point is that you can take steps to raise a job's Appeal Quotient. In Intrinsic Motivation at Work: Building Energy & Commitment, Kenneth W. Thomas, a professor emeritus at the Naval Postgraduate School, provides a practical framework for enhancing the inherent rewards a job delivers.

Thomas divides intrinsic rewards into four categories: choice, competence, meaningfulness, and progress. He then identifies five building blocks for each of these types of intrinsic rewards. The categories and building blocks are outlined below.

Choice — the sense of being able to use your own judgment and to handle tasks in your own way

Building blocks
  • delegated authority

  • trust in workers

  • security (no punishment for honest mistakes)

  • a clear purpose

  • access to needed information

Competence — the sense that you are able to do high-quality work

Building blocks
  • knowledge

  • positive feedback

  • recognition of your skills by others

  • challenge

  • high, noncompetitive standards

Meaningfulness — the sense that your mission matters

Building blocks
  • noncyclical climate

  • clearly identified passions

  • exciting vision

  • relevant task purposes (no busy work)

  • whole tasks (the opposite of the production line model)

Progress — the sense that you are making headway in accomplishing the mission

Building blocks
  • collaborative climate

  • milestones

  • celebrations

  • access to customers

  • measurement of improvement
To read about the role of intrinsic motivation in the specific area of spurring creativity, you can have a look at this classic article by Harvard business school professor Teresa Amabile. A recent summary of Amabile's thinking is available in the Fast Company archives.