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Is Motivation Really the Best Strategy for Emergent Collaboration?

Posted by on August 26, 2011

I’ve really become quite fond of the work that Simon Sinek and Brene Brown have been doing (independently).  I was at a client conference in Vegas last week and was fortunate enough to hear Dr. Brown speak live at the event.  Both Simon and Brene talk quite a bit about motivation and inspiration, two things which are quite relevant to collaboration.  Dr. Brown and Simon both look at motivation as being synonymous with manipulation, that is rewarding or incentivising people to take a desired action.  Simple examples of this are seen in what is now being called “gamifcation” where employees are rewarded with badges, points, levels, and status upgrades. The problem with motivation is that it doesn’t create loyalty, it doesn’t build trust, and it doesn’t do anything for employee passion.

Inspiration on the other hand leads to action not because of an artificial reward but because of something natural and organic.  People that donate their time to build orphanages or help people in need don’t do it because of motivation, they do it because of inspiration, they do it because they believe in what it is they are doing.  This belief and this organic pull to do something is the difference between motivation and inspiration.  As long as organizations continue to focus on superficial rewards and points they will have a very hard time inspiring those around them to take profound action.  Motivation can easily be programmatic, you do a certain amount of actions and get rewarded, keep doing those actions and you rise a level and get featured on the leader-board.  Inspiration on the other hand is human and can NEVER be programmatic.

Does this mean that motivation is bad?  I’m not sure if I’d take it that far.  I know virtually all emergent collaboration platforms (and many other companies) are integrating badges, points, and other reward mechanisms into their platforms to help employees take action on something.  Heck, I know that this type of motivation works for me when it comes time to fly with an airline and even though I don’t like United Airlines, I still give them my money because I have status with them and get flyer points.  However, where I think organizations fall short today is by only focusing on motivation and completely ignoring the enormous power that emergent collaboration can have on inspiration.

Emergent collaboration platforms offer organizations the ability to discover employee passions, beliefs, and interests (among other things) which are key pieces needed to inspire.  So while many are thinking of ways to motivate think of what you can do to inspire because inspiration is what makes people and companies great.

  • In my experience, your core group of active users (1-5%) will be inspired by their passions and interests, and largely ignore the gamifying motivations. 

    Where gamification has validity is in attracting more participation from the infrequent users (2-10%) and the lurkers (the rest). Give people a means of raising their visibility within the organization with status and reputation (badges & points), and they may come forward more. The core users are definitely ‘We-focused’, while the remainder tend to be more ‘Me-focused’. Which group is of greater value to a business (answers please on a postcard) ~ ; )

  • Motivation

    That sounds so interesting, this post is very informative…

  • I agree that there are few who inspire today.

  • Motivation

    Sounds so interesting..Motivation