by Kelly Juhasz, President, The Knowledge Transfer Company (TKTC) Inc.
Driving home a notion that we’ve all always believed in but conveniently put out of mind is that what truly and deeply motivates us is not money. In reading Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink (2009, Riverhead Books), he shares his view and a pool of evidence that states: “Tangible rewards tend to have a substantially negative effect on intrinsic motivation” (Pink, pg. 37), and that tangible rewards such as money contain short-term benefits only. Pink’s ultimate discussion focuses on what motivates people in the workplace. He states that monetary rewards can lead to bad behavior, increased risk-taking, decreased cooperation and decreased motivation (Pink, pg. 64), and a narrowed focus (Pink, pg. 50) thus cutting out creativity and innovation.
To be creative and innovative, we, as instructional designers, need to be developing “motivating” online and facilitated training programs and policies within the organization.
Essentially, Pink’s message is this: Today’s organizations are not “operating” based on what truly motivates us and they are damaging their own efforts for success by focusing on numbers – quarterly results, shareholder value, sales quotas and bonuses. Although I don’t care for his analogy about computer operating systems because I feel it just adds noise around his focal point of motivation, he believes that in order to retain staff, ensure creativity and achieve success, companies need to focus their attention and benefit structure away from a monetary reward system. They need, instead, to shift to an intrinsically motivating system where people are encouraged to achieve mastery, where people have more autonomy and where people see a sense of purpose in what they do. This, in turn, will lead organizations to greater success.
As I’ve become interested in how the kinds of concepts and processes presented in business and other related books transfer knowledge, in my blogs I like to offer an overview of the book and its concepts, and how companies can act on the newly presented knowledge in their professional development initiatives. When we better understand how knowledge is transferred, we can create better programs and articulate clearly the value to the organization. We are then able to sell them internally to our superiors and colleagues and garner the development support required to produce them.
Pink highlights key areas that companies should strive for in their business initiatives and environments. The drive for mastery, the drive for autonomy and the drive for purpose are what will lead to greater job satisfaction, better performance, less turnover and more engagement in what the company does.
In learning and training, we understand Pink’s motivating factors when designing professional development programs. Adult learning needs are directly related to what Pink is telling us along with his supporting evidence by such recognized researchers that we see in education all the time: Carol Dweck, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Howard Gardner and others.
3 Essential Motivational Elements Required for eLearning
To illustrate Pink’s key motivational elements and how professional development programs can play a role, I have listed a few points relating them to eLearning.
Ensure eLearning courses are self-directed and egalitarian.
Autonomy allows people to complete the task in their own way (Pink, pg. 62) and act with choice (Pink, pg. 88). Design programs that offer learners the opportunity to take responsibility for their learning, track their own accomplishments and reflect on their own thinking (Howard Gardner, (1999). The Disciplined Mind: Beyond Facts and Standardized Tests, the K-12 Education that Every Child Deserves. Penguin Books, pg. 135).
Self-paced eLearning solves time issues for the organization and the learner groups. When learners can select when and where to review a course, you allow them the flexibility to set their own schedules and learning environments thus providing for a more positive experience. For the organization, of course, the ability to train larger numbers of learners at the same time using well constructed and consistent information saves time and money.
ELearning levels the playing field as all learners have access the same information. In designing courses, information for various organizational positions can be placed within the same course and highlighted as such. However, ensure that all learners have access to all course information and avoid offering information using the “need to know basis,” thus having different versions for different positions. Equality in access to new company information provided through training programs or other communications allows for a more motivated learner and enlightened team.
Allow for prior knowledge and ensure the eLearning is goal-oriented.
To use the work by Wiggins and McTighe in Understanding by Design (2005, ASCD), another book I’ve recommended, ask: “What do learners need to know and be able to do at the end of this course?”
Ensure that course objectives are specific, relevant and measurable. Stimulate recall of prior knowledge by allowing learners to select how they move through a course. Let learners jump to information that they need to acquire and allow them to decide what they already know. A good design and well-constructed content that speaks to your learner at their level will grab their attention enough for them to want to review all the content provided. The ultimate goal of mastery is long-term (Pink, pg. 56) and eLearning can be designed to build upon existing knowledge and transfer knowledge forward.
Some effective tools to include in eLearning to help build mastery consist of: extra resources and readings, self-assessments, simulations, job aids and instant feedback mechanisms. For blended programs add complementary tools such as ask-an-expert, mentoring or peer mentoring, presentations, recognition/internal awards of excellence or research projects.
Provide relevance to your learner on how the content of the course affects how they currently perform their role and how new knowledge will assist them within the organization and their personal lives.
Pink states: “Autonomous people working toward mastery perform at very high levels. But those who do so in the service of some greater objective can achieve even more. The most deeply motivated people – not to mention those who are most productive and satisfied – hitch their desires to a cause larger than themselves” (Pink, pg. 131).
Although Pink is referring to more altruistic endeavors here, in training, we can also make learning more purposeful. Offering examples of practical applications of the new knowledge can help identify how the learner can adapt and incorporate the new knowledge. Whether or not your course objectives are to change behaviour or stimulate problem solving abilities, your goal in motivation is to create an environment for a higher level of thinking. Providing a complete picture for why a task is necessary puts the learning into perspective and allows for a richer level of engagement.
Some effective tools in eLearning that can be used to pursue purpose are: case studies, reflection exercises and examples of customer feedback. For a blended program consider adding coaching, mentoring, networking events, cooperative and team projects, internal knowledge fairs and community involvement.
People want to know that they are making a difference in their work and in their lives. Ultimately, this is what motivates us all.
Written by Kelly Juhasz, President, The Knowledge Transfer Company
© Copyright 2011 The Knowledge Transfer Company
(All book links are affiliate links.)