If we are motivated by rewards and incentives, why aren’t we more successful?

That’s a great question and it’s one which Dan Pink addressed in a TEDTalk a few years ago.  The problem is that it’s still the same question that business leaders are asking right now.  Nothing has changed.

Science has proven that incentives don’t work.  What they actually do is block our creativity right when we need it most.

They found that rewards narrow our focus and concentrate the mind onto one specific task and that’s great if there is a defined solution, but it is useless when we need to think outside the box and come up with something new.  Rewards restrict our thinking.

If you are trying to inspire and motivate your team with incentives and rewards, you could be doing more harm than good.

So how do you motivate a team to think creatively and develop new ideas – new solutions?

Dan Pink has suggested a new way and it has three key components to it.

  1. Self-direction or autonomy
  2.  Mastery
  3. Purpose

Those three components spring from internal motivation.  There is nothing external about it – no reward other than personal joy and satisfaction.

Autonomy gives team members some control over what they do and how they do it, and we already know that this ‘choice’ makes them become involved and committed to the process.

Mastery gives people the opportunity to learn and develop new skills.  We are driven by a desire to improve ourselves and to learn how to be better at what we do.  We want to be the best at what we do.

Purpose is the part of ourselves which we sometimes don’t express.  Each of your team members has a purpose which is important to them.  It could be to help others or to make the world a better place.  Often it is something which they can’t articulate but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there and it isn’t a driving force in their lives.

If you are still using the rewards system, often called the carrot and stick approach, it’s time to change.  You will find that your team is capable of amazing results if you:

  • Allow them to be involved in the planning of the work and how it is done;
  • Create an environment which allows them to extend themselves safely through graduated challenges; and
  • Focus on the “why” of what you do, rather than the “how” and the profits you make.  Your work and your company make a difference in people’s lives, so focus on that.

Traditional reward systems have failed you so far. Perhaps it’s time you made some changes in the way you motivate your team.

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