How Innovation Leaders Tap into Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation.

Is your business innovation driven by internal  rewards? Do your employees do what they do because they love doing it? If so, you’re successfully tapping into a process known as intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation occurs when an individual acts out of genuine interest in the task. It’s about the internal rewards that come from doing what you love to do versus external rewards or incentives, which are known as forms of extrinsic motivation.

You can increase innovation leadership by rethinking your approach to motivating employees. Find the why and how of intrinsic motivation. Since creative employees make up 30 percent of the U.S. workforce, you will find them to be more innovative and productive.

What Is the Intrinsic Motivation Theory?

Experts have formed several theories to explain intrinsic motivation. Some believe all behavior is driven by external rewards such as money, food, or a desire to avoid punishment. Intrinsic motivation is different. It operates internally, with the reward being the motivation itself.

Just as people have physical needs such as hunger and thirst, they also have psychological needs such as competence and relatedness. Satisfying these needs is what helps individuals develop and thrive.

Intrinsic motivation involves searching for challenging activities that are interesting and internally rewarding. This is done without the prospect of external rewards.

According to Fast Company, intrinsic motivation is the only type of motivation that leads to success. One way of promoting it is to allow employees to decorate their spaces with objects that have meaning. Research from the University of Exeter found familiar objects can increase productivity as much as 32 percent.

What Promotes Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is promoted by a few factors that illustrate how it works and why adopting it is beneficial to your company.

  • Curiosity: Curiosity is one major factor of innovation leadership that pushes people to explore and learn for the sake of learning rather than to receive a reward.
  • Challenge: Challenge is another component that motivates people to innovate. It’s how new inventions are found. Challenge enables people to work toward achieving meaningful goals and fosters discovery.
  • Control: Control derives from a basic desire to gain power over what happens. Securing control over your environment allows you to make decisions that affect the outcome. Though you will be able to control some factors, others will be more difficult to regulate.
  • Recognition: Individuals have a need to be recognized and appreciated for a job well-done. This recognition is satisfying because it shows one’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed.
  • Cooperation: Teamwork is essential for innovation. Each team member possesses a different skill set that helps drive creative forces toward achieving a shared goal. Cooperating with others also satisfies a need to belong.
  • Competition: Competition can be healthy for organizations if it follows intrinsic motivation. It brings people together by posing challenges that make everyone want to do a better job. Those who think of the external rewards, however, may lose sight of the intended goals.
  • Fantasy: Fantasy is a process that uses mental or virtual images to stimulate behavior. One example of this is a game that requires problem-solving skills.

How to Apply Intrinsic Motivation

There are several steps you can take to promote innovation leadership through intrinsic motivation in the workplace. Consider these when bringing innovative teams together.

  • Make tasks fun: Approach each task in a positive manner by explaining the goals, expectations, and end results. Tell your employees why the task is important and emphasize the internal rewards of doing it.
  • Focus on value to find meaning: Think about the purpose of each task and how it helps others and encourage your employees to do the same. This will impart a deeper meaning which will go a long way toward using intrinsic motivation.
  • Promote individual challenges: Encourage each team member to find an individual challenge and use it to grow. Emphasize mastering skills rather than external gains.

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