Posts Tagged theory

The Inherent Conflict in Motivation Theory

Motivation theory has been around for multiple decades and has been reflected on by hundreds of authors over a wide span of influence.  Behavioral Psychologists have used animal studies with primates and other species to extrapolate motivational theory for humans.  Many research projects and meta-analyses have considered the implications of various forms of treatments and their impact on motivation.  Despite this rigorous study from multiple disciplines, the results of our efforts continue to confound us.  A prime example is the Strathclyde University study that failed to find any support for a mainstay of motivational practices when considering reward systems in 63 organizations.  No support for contingency theory could be found in this study, which has been described as the largest and most detailed of its kind (Bowey, 2005).  Despite this, contingent rewards are still the cornerstone of the business world and continue to develop in the form of spiraling wages (or reduction of hours associated with wage), fringe benefits, or any number of creative incentives aimed at propelling a work force toward both stability and performance (Herzberg, 2003).

Harlow, Harlow, and Meyer (1950) laid a foundation for an alternative theory to standard contingent theory when they found in their experiments with monkeys that motivation in fact existed in absence of any of the typical extrinsic incentives typically associated with performance.  The complexity of the problem itself in the form of a puzzle created a manipulation drive that was studied prior to any reward structure being introduced.  This study caused them to conclude that manipulation drive was as powerful as homeostatic drives that are related to satisfying unrelated needs (food, etc.).

Deci, Koestner, and Ryan (1999) pursued a large meta-analysis of 128 studies to reflect on the interaction of extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation. Their analyses indicated that the effect of all tangible rewards led to significant undermining of intrinsic motivation, no matter what measure was used. The implications of this are profound and consistent with Herzberg (2003) where he postulates that extrinsic rewards simply reinforce motivation toward acquiring the next reward, and not toward greater degrees of accomplishment.

Pink (2009) confirms that intrinsic motivators have superior power over extrinsic rewards and can be found through three principles:  autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  The following video demonstrates how this is instrumental in developing deeply personal goals.

Two questions that can change your life from Daniel Pink on Vimeo.

Herein lies the rub. In the current age, we seek greater accomplishment of task and insight into innovation and creativity while holding on to industrial age methodologies for eliciting quantity of performance rather than quality. By virtue of this, motivational insights that uncover the intellectual dynamics involved in encouraging complex cognitive tasks are critical to the next age of human enlightenment.

References

Bowey, A. (2005). Motivation: The art of putting theory into practice. European Business Forum, (20), 17-20.

Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. M. (1999). A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 125(6), 627-668.

Harlow, H. F., Harlow, M. K., & Meyer, D. R. (1950). Learning motivated by a manipulation drive. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 40(2), 228-234.

Herzberg, F. (2003). One more time: How do you motivate employees? Harvard Business Review, 81(1), 86.

Pink, D. (2009). Drive : The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York: Riverhead Books. 

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This is Granularity…

Coming on the heels of my post this morning is a new release from TED.comAditi Shankardass — who shares her work on brain research that has uncovered the misdiagnosis of 50% of autistic children due to using behavioral observations alone.  Sounds like examining the boulder from the outside again and coming to inaccurate conclusions.

Seems, despite the associated costs, that we should address this issue by examining our decision-making paradigms.  Should we assess the American Educational System on the basis of high-stakes tests alone?   Should we use carrot/stick methodologies to increase competition and offer rewards for excellence when we want a comprehensive and viable education for all?

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Motivation & Daniel Pink

It seems fortuitous that I wrote last night on Mike Rowe and then found Daniel Pink shortly after to reflect on the nature of motivation.  These are two very nice videos back-to-back and tell us much about the new age of work and accomplishment.  Similar to the theories (dare I say facts) presented by Pink, I’m writing this instead of the paper that is due in my doctoral class – my incentive, “grade” based class where I do work for the carrot of a piece of paper that somehow distinguishes me from everyone else – hogwash!

In reality, much of what Pink describes is true for me – I select projects where I can be creative and add to the base of knowledge rather than looking for the position with the greatest pay potential.  Performance has always been a motivator and I read about Google’s 20% only to say “Yeah!” and “Right On!!” and “That Makes Sense!!!”

The fact that we have had it wrong for so long is what amazes me.  In schools especially, we seem all too caught up in a Pavlovian reality and stretching to a different kind of conceptual framework seems unreachable.  Could it be that our most difficult students are trying to tell us something that has nothing to do with their “condition?”  Maybe we have so tightly closed the lid on our children that they have no choice but to move constantly amongst realities – one after another in quick succession – to the point that we no longer understand them because of their divergence from our norms.

Pink may have the new age of motivation in his pocket, and his dialog on the topic has inspired some divergent thinking at the very least.

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Motivation 101

A thought on why broad education reform is lingering despite selective successes…

In looking at organizational behavior, there is one theory of motivation that may apply to the current scenario in regards to the willingness of teachers to embrace necessary change. Equity Theory provides a basis for thinking about motivation that goes something like this:

The equity theory of work motivation was developed in the 1960s by J. Stacy Adams (equity means “fairness”). Equity theory is based on the premise that an employee perceives the  relationship between the outcomes — what the employee gets from a job and organization — and his or her inputs—what the employee contributes to the job and organization…. According to equity theory, however, it is not the objective level of outcomes and inputs that is important in determining work motivation. What is important to motivation is the way an employee perceives his or her outcome/input ratio compared to the outcome/input ratio of another person. (George & Jones, 2008)

What’s interesting about this is the “referent” or other person that is used as the comparison.  In the last decade, there has been a movement to compare teachers at a professional level to other white collar careers, and rightfully so.  Education is clearly a highly valued profession in the truest sense and many aspire to the profession out of desire to service and more intrinsic motivation.

But, when I talk to teachers, there is a terrible disconnect between the two factors described above.  There is a huge demand for excellent inputs with little potential for commensurate outcomes that would ever be considered consistent with doctors or lawyers.

So, does that mean we have to raise pay exponentially and provide incentive based rewards? Nope – not necessarily!  In fact, additional pay may not be a motivator if all other factors of work conditions remain the same.  If children have increasing needs and if demands associated with the job continue to escalate, pay and other extrinsic incentives will have little impact on overcoming the significant disparity between needed work (and there’s lots of it) and the slim possibility of rewards in a system that never seems to be “fixed.”

At the core of expectancy theory is a need for people to believe that they can achieve the expected performance level.  Have we given teachers any degree of belief that they can achieve the targeted performance?  Many reports have been published on the problems with the American education system.  Have many been published on the quality of the system?  Do teachers feel like their goals can be achieved if they go from one evaluation to the next thinking they are doing the right thing only to find that their evaluations and performance demands change in any given year without additional possibility of remuneration?

In 1993, the Washington State Legislature enacted HB 1209 school reform.  There were three steps:

  1. establish high standards and assessments
  2. provide districts with additional flexibility and resources
  3. hold districts and schools accountable for student achievement

Steps 1 and 3 have been accomplished, although accountability still seems a wavering target.  But step 2 has not been fully addressed at either constitutional nor budget level.  Thus, it is clear that a disconnect still exists between desired program change and a willingness to address the associated costs for resources and staff motivation towards these changes.

It’s easy to understand why changes in the profession of teaching are hard-fought in an era of increasing complacency.  With nothing but criticism often greeting them at the doors of their classrooms, teachers are the most difficult group to address when considering motivational strategies.  Setting standards is only one part of the puzzle.  Giving teachers a sense that a new order is not only achievable, but desirable, is the real challenge of leaders and policy makers.

References

George, J., & Jones, G. R. (2008). Understanding and managing organizational behavior (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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Complexity Leadership Theory

A tidbit of a new concept under reflection:

emergence

Uhl-Bien, M., Marion, R., & McKelvey, B. (2007). Complexity leadership theory: Shifting leadership from the industrial age to the knowledge era. Leadership Quarterly, 18(4), 298-318.

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