The Motivation Paradigm, Part 2: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Last time we talked about how the concept of “good health” is a surprisingly poor motivator for exercise. We talked about the need for short-, medium-, and long-term goals to support a system of motivation. Promoting exercise is also supported from another paradigm, that of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

The difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is perhaps best understood as a business concept. The traditional business incentives are seen as the carrot and the stick: “If you do perform this task well, we will give you a raise. If you do it poorly, you’re fired.” In the industrial age of the past, it was an adequate model. People were given simple tasks to perform and this simple carrot/stick reward system worked pretty well.

But research shows that this model works well only for simple tasks. For complex or creative tasks, these extrinsic motivations fail. In our new economy, the best ideas come from incentivizing people with rewards that are more intrinsic in nature. For instance, Google gives its engineers 20% of their time to work on anything they want without restriction, guidance, or supervision. It is said that policy has resulted in 50% of their new products.


  1. Author

    Thanks so much, Vivienne. I am glad you are getting something from these. They are really just different ways to look at at complex and obtuse subject. Please post how the Bostian Mania workshop goes for you and maybe how the lessons there compare to what we’ve been talking about. Also, I hope you will like Part Three which deals with fear versus love as motivators. Good wishes.

  2. Another winner Bill……I’ve even taken a few notes ;).

    Again very timely as this coming weekend is Boston Mania and, in addition for few off-the-wall workshops (I always sign up for some unfamiliar stuff just to remind myself what it feels like to be newbie)I’m down for a pre-con workshop on Lifestyle and Behavioural Coaching with Brian Comana. It’s probably more to do with weight management as his workshops are usually on some aspect of nutrition……but science is science.

    You’ve helped me get my head in the game ahead of time

    Again, thanks for such a thoughtful/thought provoking post


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