Home > EA, Personal > Long Forgotten Inner Motivation

Long Forgotten Inner Motivation

Having kids is the most amazing (and exhausting) thing in the world. Amongst the myriad of reasons, they make me learn a lot about myself (and umans in generall). And also about the way in which parents trying to raise them up, the environment, society and culture influence children’s innate nature. Here’s one example.

Let the story talk first:


Yesterday my 3-year-old was dancing at a local summer party. Really cute experience as every one of you parents can imagine. She’s keen in dancing, though of course in this age it only hardly resembles any particular “style”. Without a doubt I was a proud father. Out of nothing DJ announced that a reward will be given out to the best dancer and unsurprisingly, it wasn’t her. The “competition” of older kids was just too strong.

Now I could really see her confusion in her eyes. On one hand, she was dancing as good as she could because she likes it, enjoys it and has fun. And then, there was a natural desire for the reward. Unrelated, as a matter of fact. A really pleasant experience was confused with expectation and disappointment.

Few days ago:

During the lunch I was chatting with few colleagues of mine about raising children, that we don’t have rewards and punishments at home and that we try to give our kids choice and teach them the consequences of their decisions (yes, even this small kids, actually since they were 1-year-old). And I was asked how do I motivate them to do something without a reward.


With a fellow architect we were kind of complaining about the frustration and rigidity of the people in the company. How they are driven by KPIs, cautiousness, securing the position, complaining about others… in many organizations just the usual.


All these three stories have a common denominator – motivation.

Ad story 1: I hate to see when so pure and strong inner motivation to do something is manipulated and screwed with rewards, or even worse, punishments. To me, that’s manipulation, not a motivation. In fact, some studies even proved that external motivation through rewards is counterproductive and changes the motivation from the activity itself to “gaining reward” and lost interest in the original activity.

Ad story 2: How do I motivate kids to do something without a reward? Well, I don’t. If I gave out a reward, they would not be motivated to do the thing but to gain the reward. So why pretend.
[This made me think about Gamification, which could be a way here:)]

Ad story 3: Now linking to the corporate world this exciting existing inner motivation, which can be nicely seen in small kids when they are discovering the world. I have experienced interesting thing. People do have this inner motivation still in them. It’s just hidden under the surface, unwanted, undervalued, perhaps even politically incorrect, not nurtured and not leveraged. But when you touch it, when you ask about it and let them talk, you can see how they lighten up, start to imagine and for once you can see that the true motivation is there. Then you even start to understand why some corporations work better than others.

Just to find a way to bring it together and use it for the common endeavour.

Categories: EA, Personal
  1. September 2, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Thanks for a great post. You are spot on about how rewards can damage or destroy inner/intrinsic motivation. Great advice for all of us who lead teams of very talented people.

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