Then you've experienced some of the failure modes of what Kohn calls "pop behaviourism", the notion that people can successfully be encouraged to do what you want them to by rewarding them for it (and vice versa). Kohn claims that very few studies have been done of the effectiveness of the many and various motivational techniques that have this idea at their core, and that those few studies that have been done indicate that those techniques don't work very well. In fact, Kohn claims that just not working is the best you can hope for from most motivational techniques, all too often they are counter productive, actively pissing people off. He examines these techniques at every level, from the gold stars handed out to school students to performance related pay, and is unimpressed.
It's worth noting that a current news story in the UK (May 2003) is that their pay, severance and pension arrangements seem to be conditioning senior managers here to take large, successful companies and turn them into small, bankrupt ones. Bring down the firm, lose thousands of people their jobs, and retire on more per year than I earn in a decade, seems to be the way it's going.
Anyway, Kohn offers an alternative, ways to foster internal, instrinsic motivation in people, through the "three C's": Collaboration, Content, and Choice.
There's also a transcript of a conversation between Kohn and BFSkinner, high priest of behaviourism, plus behaviourists' responses to Kohn's ideas, lots of notes and a lot of references. Interesting and thought-provoking stuff. --KeithBraithwaite
Just looked through this again the other day. Punished By Rewards is an excellent argument (with tons of references, including many studies for the skeptical) about cracking off the external crap we put on ourselves and others to get us to do things, allowing our intrinsic will for life, creativity and contribution to spring up and flow. In NonviolentCommunication, Kohn's intrinsic motivations are called needs, and the substantial and universal human need to contribute is a big part of what makes things work. (Watch out, though: TheGeographyOfThought calls into question the universality of some of these "universal" needs. --KeithBraithwaite) The illusion that people won't help each other out without some external pressure is self-reinforcing enough that it becomes believable; it's part of a package of such beliefs (and the behaviours that go with them) which bring us so much misery (see WalterWink?'s EngagingThePowers).
Thus the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and respect for the intrinsic, are hugely important. Behaviorists say there is no such thing as intrinsic motivation, that all motivation is trained into us by our environment. So are other people of our environment intrinsically motivated? No, they also are also motivated only by external factors. This leads to externalizing all motivation/purpose nearly out of existence! Trying to reduce it all to some axiomatic (and thus somewhat mystical) laws of physics - or even biology - is bad science, leading to explanations that make Ptolemy's epicycles look simple and straightforward.
Kohn doesn't even attempt to offer any clear answers as to what intrinsic motivation is (he raises lots of questions about it in an appendix). So to be honest it's equally mystical, but frankly it's more satisfying to say that this thing exists and we don't know exactly what it is, than to say it simply doesn't exist at all, or reducing it to absurdity. Occam's razor suggests to me that purpose is in everything. Mind you, identifying with it in an attached way is a sure recipe for misery - cf Buddhism. This may in part explain many people's inclination to deny its existence (behaviourism certainly seems to have given Skinner equanimity). Myself, i'm more hopeful about us all enjoying life here when i imagine people having a healthy interest in our motivations (while remaining unattached, in the Buddhist sense), rather than trying to deny them. --JohnAbbe
For another take on "intrinsic motivation" see anything by EdDeci?, or RichardRyan?. The early edition of WhyWeDoWhatWeDo? is quite compelling. I haven't read the reprint edition. Similar discussions of motivation come from AbrahamMaslow mentioned above, talks about management in terms of humanistic psychology in MaslowOnManagement and elsewhere.
Most interesting to me is that Deci started out as a behaviorist investigating motivation and human performance. He saw some results that didn't fit the behaviorist model, so needed an explanation. Because of his background his research and analysis are better designed than most of the other humanistic psychology folk, including what I've seen from AlfieKohn.
-- JimBullock, intrinsically motivated to post this.
Kohn references Deci and Ryan extensively. Personally, i don't need any more convincing on the value of intrinsic motivation. The question for me is how to live it, that is, how to personally, experientially unlearn the deep conditioning i've gotten that extrinsic motivation is the only/primary way to go for myself and others. Does WhyWeDoWhatWeDo? (or Deci or Ryan elsewhere) address this? NonviolentCommunication (NVC) is the best practice & network i've found so far for the individual/interpersonal scale. Larger scale, i'm not sure yet, but see http://wiki-thataway.org/ --JohnAbbe
Just finished this book. It seemed a bit of a chore, not because of the book (which is cleanly written and not difficult to read), but because I had too many books going... I was trying to get through it to get through it. Isn't that hilarious?
But I found the book invaluable nonetheless. Although I never doubted the truth of what Kohn was saying because I'd seen it at play many times, I had trouble connecting with these concepts in myself most of the way through the book, until I got something from Buddhism and sort of connected the dots into something larger, which is that rewards are just one small case of focusing on the future and not being present, and all of the demotivational aspects probably apply in any case we do something for the sake of anything other than the thing itself. Why do I drive home from work? To get home? Once I'm home, I take off my shoes. Why? So that I can eat dinner. Why do I eat dinner? So I can hurry up and do the dishes. Why? So that I can read a book. Why do I read a book? So that I can build the things I'd like to build. Most of my experience is in this sort of full-tilt mode where I am off balance, leaning into the next thing.
Sometimes I just drive home. That's a great place to be.
The other thing I've been pondering, which the appendix about intrinsic motivations really sparked (as I see is the case for others as well), is the "solidity" of intrinsic motivations. I've noticed in NVC, that they often disappear, become less tangible, or turn out to be defined in terms of other needs once I connect with them (in fact, experientially, that is part of how I know that I connected). This, I think, agrees with the Buddhist concept of an interdependent self, empty of intrinsic existence. We exist only in the corner of our eye. --JasonFelice