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Carrot vs the stick

Science have made research of what it’s that really motivates us over and over. Sometimes there’s a new report that gets a lot of attention and sometimes it falls into oblivion. One old experiment about motivation that has had a renaissance is the candle experiment. Back in 1945 Karl Duncker made this experiment and in present times, Sam Glucksberg, from Princeton University, decided to test if offering a financial reward helped people to perform better or not. The guys at Princeton found that when a financial incentive was offered for completing a task in a shorter amount of time, it took longer time to solve the problem than for a group that was offered no financial incentive. Why ?

When we are offered a reward for a behavior, part of our brain is focused on that reward, which is how incentives work. However, if we are doing a task that requires creativity, narrow focus limits the range of flexibility of thought that is essential for creative results. When we are given no incentive and free to devote our mental efforts to solve the problem – our mind is able to generate these creative solutions more innovative and faster.

Dan Pink (Al Gore’s former speech writer) shows in this video from a TED presentation this summer, a more profound presentation of the Candle Problem. He states that the old “Carrot and the stick” tasks is replaced by the following motivating words: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

What is it that really motivates me?

What motivates the team I belong to?

Dan Pink at TED

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