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The surprising science of motivation

By January 13, 2012 May 6th, 2020 No Comments

I recently watched a YouTube presentation from motivational guru Dan Pink, entitled “The surprising science of motivation”.

The presentation covered ideas on how to engage staff by promoting autonomy, self- direction and creativity. In his research, Dan concluded that rewards are less effective for extremely complex tasks.

While I agree with much of what Dan was advocating, especially his point that adequate pay has to be a starting point so that the money issue is off the table, I feel that the presentation missed out on some fundamental points on how to motivate, inspire and engage the majority of staff. I believe that the following key points were missed:

1. It may be a wonderful idea to allow staff autonomy, mastery and self- direction, but in many roles in an organisation it is simply not practical. Staff carrying out the more routine tasks often have limited opportunity to work “outside the box”. In many cases it is the staff carrying out these more mundane roles that are most disengaged and demotivated, and their value to the organisation needs to be recognised.

2. Money has been proven to be less of a motivator than previously thought, and rewards that inspire, such as experiences, have a far greater and longer lasting positive impact on engagement and motivation. User input on the type of rewards offered also makes a significant difference when motivating staff.

3.Timescale is a key factor. A reward program with an end date far into the future (such as an annual award), has far less impact than a program where staff can achieve results in the shorter and medium term. There is no issue with having a long term goal as well, but it should not be the only motivational incentive.

4. Motivational rewards should be given for behaviour or actions that are above and beyond what someone is paid to do. However, a punishment for not achieving a result is an ineffective way to engage and inspire staff as it introduces a fear factor which could be anti-productive.

The Brownie Points team are experienced at implementing reward programs that drive staff motivation and ultimately deliver significant benefits to the business. To learn more, call us today on 03 9909 7411, or email us at


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