What Motivates: Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose

A couple of weeks ago, I asked an important question during our 8:10 call. What motivates workers? My answers come from a study done at MIT.  Dan Pink’s lecture : The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (the video of his lecture is posted below) does a GREAT job of laying out the study.  Here’s a quick synopsis:

While money is definitely a motivator for all of us, a study at MIT suggests there are three other factors that can lead to better performance and personal satisfaction.

    1. Autonomy – Many people desire to be self-directed. We tend to respond positively to the opportunity to take ownership for a project or responsibility.
    2. Mastery – We enjoy the satisfaction of getting better and better at certain things. Why do some people play an instrument or sport in their spare time? While there is the element of challenge, relaxation or even just fun, there is a great deal of satisfaction that comes from getting better at a certain skill and mastering it.


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  1. Purpose – Most people want to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. Clearing communicating the purpose of an organization or task will help everyone feel more connected and motivated.

The lecture is very interesting and engaging (thanks to RSAnimation!), so spend 11 minutes and re-think how you motivate your workers!

MIT’s Technology Review website also has a review of Dan’s Lecture (by Brad Feld).

Nigel Fenwick, over on Forrester, also reviews the lecture, here.


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