Intrinsic Motivation: No. 6 Reason Ecosystems Are The Future!

intrinsic motivation

As disruptive scenarios emerge to impact every industry, I see them coalescing into ecosystems. Because our lives are multidimensional, our needs are the intersections for disruptive scenarios and anchor points for the future of our industries. Thus, it’s critical for business strategists, entrepreneurs and individuals alike to understand ecosystems. I’m counting down the top ten reasons why I believe ecosystems are the ultimate destination for disruptive scenarios and the future of business.

So far, I’ve presented the emerging community value system that’s supporting society’s shift toward ecosystems, the proliferation of industry platforms that’s enabling organic growth of ecosystems, the rapid growth of the collaborative economy, which is embodying the ecosystem model across nearly every industry, and I’ve shown how the ecosystem model is spreading to the workforce through freelancing and coworking. In this post, I’ll look at the role that intrinsic motivation will play in the transition to ecosystems.

Intrinsic motivation fuels cognitive performance

intrinsic motivationIn his book “Drive”, Daniel Pink studied the science of motivation and found that while most businesses today incentivize employees with extrinsic motivators like rewards and bonuses, intrinsic motivators, which come from the pleasure or sense of satisfaction one gets from completing a task, are infinitely more effective in increasing the performance of cognitive activities. In the video at right, he cites autonomy (the ability to self-direct activities), mastery (the desire to get better at something that matters) and purpose (being a part of something larger than oneself) as the three fundamental elements of intrinsic motivation.

Erica Blaney is VP of Marketing at Bunchball, a company that specializes in gamification systems that enhance human performance. She echoes Pink’s findings on motivation and adds two more fundamental elements:

  1. Autonomy: “I control.” Autonomy in the workplace exists on a continuum – from jobs where employees have none and are told exactly what to do, to jobs where employees have all the autonomy they want, whenever they want it, as long as the work gets done – and everywhere in between.
  2. Mastery: “I improve.” Getting better at things is satisfying on a number of fronts. For some employees, it means the job gets easier. For others, it brings the psychic and possibly financial rewards that come from doing something that 1) couldn’t be done before and 2) not everyone else can do.
  3. Purpose: “I make a difference.” Every employee needs to feel like they’re making a difference and that their efforts and accomplishments have meaning.
  4. Progress: “I achieve.” People respond well when they see that they are making progress on something they care about, whether in the workplace or in life.
  5. Social Interaction: “I connect with others.” Humans are innately social creatures, and we want to connect, interact, affiliate, care and share. We also want to be recognized, and we want to understand and be understood.

Blaney states that “intrinsic motivators like these are seldom integrated into the workplace and that’s why employees disengage. When intrinsic motivators are integrated into the workplace, the opposite happens. Employees start to see their work as more meaningful, and so they become eager and willing to learn and contribute. As a result, business performance improves, measurably and fast.”

Ecosystems thrive on intrinsic motivation

While intrinsic motivation is seldom seen in the traditional corporate workplace, it thrives within ecosystems, which embody its fundamental elements. Ecosystems form around a compelling purpose and attract passionate, autonomous participants whose contributions are based on personal mastery and form the basis for meaningful peer relationships. There are many examples of people going to great lengths to contribute their efforts to ecosystem initiatives they care about. Everyone is aware of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, which as of May 2015, includes over 35 million articles in 288 languages that have been written by over 55 million registered users and numerous anonymous contributors worldwide. Linux, the open source operating system, which represented a $25 billion ecosystem as of 2008, powers everything from the New York Stock Exchange to mobile phones to supercomputers to consumer devices. Over 1,000 developers, from at least 100 different companies, contribute to every release. Another example is Cyanogen, a start up valued at $1 billion that is currently developing an open source mobile platform to compete with Google and Apple. Cyanogen got started when Steve Kondik, a 40 year old programmer, began tinkering with the Android operating system. His efforts quickly attracted an ecosystem of programmers and today the operating system, which is installed on 50 million phones, is being developed by Cyanogen’s 90 employees and over 9,000 intrinsically motivated open source programmers.

Instrinsic motivation and Blue Water Utility ecosystem

In this 11 part blog series, Jeremy Scrivens describes how Blue Water Utility transformed itself from a KPI-driven enterprise focused on providing a utility service into a purposeful ecosystem of people intent on preserving its city’s waterways. Scrivens says that a positive social culture where members are engaged intrinsically to contribute for social good is essential to shifting to an ecosystem mindset. He noted “what was profound was the shift in consciousness when people in different areas of the business began to recognise that they all cared deeply about the same thing – about the future of the City’s Waterways and that the future would be secured and sustained through new ways of working together as a community of purpose and belonging. Blue Water used platforms for coworking, sharing and innovation to engage a wider ecosystem in real time and discovered the following intrinsic motivators in shifting to an ecosystem mindset:

  • Our best experiences at work – regardless of which department we work in or the job we do [are] emotional – not numbers or KPIs or plans.
  • As we morph into a social business, we connnect and bring into play the strengths of thousands of people who believe what we believe.
  • The next stage of our work to sustain the City’s Waterways is about discovering and extending the emotional strengths we have with the whole of the City as co-carers and to engage them at a deeper level of conversation around purpose – not just the efficiency and cost of the service.
  • Our life long investment in our work – is not just financial or the systems or assets. We foster a sense inter-generational continuity, passing the baton from one generation to the next – from one worker to another and with our community / ecosystem as partners.

Intrinsic Motivation and Ecosystems

Because ecosystems are self-organizing around a common purpose, they attract and are comprised of intrinsically motivated people. They are agile, high performing organizations with a significant performance advantage over corporate hierarchies that rely solely on extrinsic motivators to manage performance. As democratization continues, businesses and industries will continue to face pressure from ecosystems that offer a compelling option to a global workforce that’s trending toward freelancing and coworking. With 3 billion more people coming online in th next 5 years representing a cognitive surplus of some 3 trillion annual hours of available work effort, a business’ ability to orchestrate purposeful, community-oriented initiatives that attract intrinsically motivated people will be a key competency in determining its viability in a highly networked world. That makes “Intrinsic Motivation” the number 6 reason that ecosystems are the future.

Next Up: Number 5 – Purpose

Number 7 – Freelancing & Coworking
Number 8 – The Collaborative Economy
Number 9 – Industry Platforms
Number 10 – Community Values

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