Wonderful video on how to motivate (and de-motivate) knowledge workers

Years ago, I had an interview for a faculty position at Harvard Business School. I bombed. Horrible interview. I tried so hard to impress and attempted to explain so many different research projects that I tripped over my words and failed to explain much of anything. I’m surprised I didn’t hear them burst into laughter as I walked out.

Anyhow, during that interview, I argued that the best motivators are intrinsic and that smart companies focus on establishing cultures that enable achievement-focused people to work collaboratively with other achievement-focused people. One of the professors — whose work I knew revolved around the purported power of stock options to motivate effort — kept pressing me to say how I would motivate a CEO who’s slacking off. I knew he wanted me to say “give them more stock options,” but I insisted that any CEO who’s not working hard because her/his pay is too low should be fired.

Monetary rewards work well for motivating effort at mechanical tasks, but money can backfire as a motivator of creative work, as this marvelous video explains. It shows that what motivates good workers — beyond fair pay — is “autonomy, mastery and purpose.” Employees obsessed with money — rather than doing their jobs creatively and productively — are employees you don’t want.

Posted by James on Tuesday, June 01, 2010