Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose: Motivators of Innovation

It seems as though every business is based on a model of rewards and punishments for certain behaviors. If you are the top employee consistently, you will probably get a bonus. If you are always late and your working habits are poor, you will probably get demoted and your boss will consider firing you.


On the left, the basic model of “sticks and carrots” shows rewards and punishments. On the right are personal motivations to excel.

Science shows that self-directed people who are not incentivized by someone else tend to perform tasks, especially creative and conceptual tasks, more efficiently. Intrinsic motivation proves to be much more powerful than being given incentives. When you truly want something for yourself, whether it be because you are interested in it or because it makes you a better person, you will work as efficiently as you can in trying to achieve your personal goal.


As an example, have you ever heard of Microsoft Encarta? You have most likely not heard of it. Why? Because it is an encyclopedia service that was battling Wikipedia for many years until Microsoft finally pulled the plug on it in 2009. 97% of Internet traffic to encyclopedias went to Wikipedia and 1.27% to Encarta.

The problem was that Wikipedia is a free open-source encyclopedia that is constantly being updated worldwide, whereas Encarta had many outdated articles. Wikipedia has never paid the users who contributed to the website. Rather, people wrote and edited articles with no external reward or incentive, but a desire to learn or teach others.

As is done with this very blog post, I am given a certain amount of points for submitting a blog post with a certain amount of words in it. The quality of and time spent on the post is up to me. With each blog post I find a topic that I am interested in and finding that interest is the hardest part.



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