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Consortium for Service Innovation


What Motivates People?

The business world is becoming accustomed to talking about extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and the realization that for intellectual work, we should move away from extrinsic motivation and towards intrinsic motivation. The research and evidence is overwhelming, yet very few companies understand and embrace the reality of what motivates people. 

Frederic Herzberg's Two Factor Theory 

Herzberg's research, documented in one of Harvard Business Review's most re-published articles One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees, identified two factors in motivating employees: hygiene factors and motivation factors. Hygiene factors can be a major distracter if they are not sufficiently looked after. Motivation factors come into play only if the hygiene factors are adequate; they form the basis for the motivation factors. All of the motivation factors are intrinsic.  

  • Top five hygiene factors, in order of importance:
    • Company policy and administration
    • Supervision
    • Relationship with supervisor
    • Work conditions
    • Salary
  • Top five motivators, in order of importance:
    • Achievement
    • Recognition
    • Work itself 
    • Responsibility
    • Advancement

Herzberg's research also showed how ineffective rewards and punishment are in motivating people. In describing this, he coined the term KITA (kick in the ass) management model to describe this flawed approach to motivation. His paper is highly recommended for anyone involved in implementing Intelligent Swarming. 

Daniel Pink's "Drive"

Daniel Pink is a New York Times columnist and author whose work we reference often. Daniel picks a topic, researches it in depth, and then writes highly accessible and widely praised books on the selected topic. His book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us reviews numerous studies done on motivation. Drive compliments Herzberg's research and adds the critical factor of distinguishing physical tasks from cognitive or intellectual tasks. The traditional rewards and punishment, carrot and stick, and KITA models work for physical tasks. Those same models fail miserably when the task requires thinking and judgment. Knowledge work is, by definition, intellectual work and yet time and time again we see organizations using old motivation models from the world of physical work. This is in part because so many of our management practices have their roots in manufacturing. While organizations have evolved from creating products (or outcomes that are tangible) to creating value, memories, experiences, and services, the management practices have not evolved and are still based on the mentality of production lines and people doing physical work. The tiered support model with a level one, two, and three is an antiquated linear, production line approach applied to a different type of work. This intellectual work requires a different approach and a different model of engagement and motivation. 

Key points from Drive:

  • Motivation factors for physical tasks or work is different from the motivation factors for cognitive tasks
  • The primary motivating factors for intellectual work are:
    • Mastery - we like to get good at things
    • Autonomy - we like to have control and choice over our activities and situation 
    • Purpose - alignment to and belief in a compelling purpose or value proposition because we are motivated when we care

Motivation in a Collaborative Environment

Now that we understand what motivates people around intellectual or cognitive work, we are in a position to help those who are not engaged. Intelligent Swarming requires that we design our workplace in a way that enables people to feel a sense of autonomy and mastery. Knowing what motivates knowledge workers offers opportunities to help improve performance.

Leadership's challenge is to create an environment in which people care: where the hygiene factors are taken care of and where people feel connected to the purpose and values of the organization, and understand how their work has impact. This is what enables people to feel good about their contribution and accomplishments, which is what motivates people to contribute. As we mentioned earlier, apathy is death to a collaborative environment. Apathy is a symptom of weak leadership.

The Power of "Opt-in" 

A fundamental premise of Intelligent Swarming is the idea that people will choose to help: they will opt-in. We can see from the extensive research on motivation that autonomy or a sense of control and choice is a powerful motivator.  As organizations consider adopting Intelligent Swarming, management is often quick to ask... "what if no one opts-in?" There are three factors at play here. 

  1. The most powerful motivator is understanding and leveraging the motivation factors we have covered in this section.
  2. We have to ensure our measures and recognition systems are focused on value creation and not volume.  We will get what we measure.
  3. We need to design and implement exception triggers; we need to detect and manage issues that are at risk of missing service level commitments. But, if we pay attention to the motivation factors and our measures, the frequency of exceptions will be minimal. 

Successful adoption of the Intelligent Swarming model requires an understanding of what really motivates knowledge workers. Sticks and carrots, rewards and punishments, stack ranking, and leaderboards are not effective ways to motivate people to collaborate.

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