If you’ve read my posts on In Clear Text, you’ve already pegged me as some Bob Sutton fan-girl (among other things), but apparently were interested enough to keep reading me here on .eduGuru. If I’m new to you, well, certain Nikki-isms are not apparent enough for me to worry about avoiding. Win-win!
I’ve been stewing on a series of Bob Sutton posts about disincentives, particularly how money as a motivator caused people to act counter to the organization’s best interests. For me, the real question and lesson was not, “Is money a good motivator?” It evolved to this: “Is a single motivator the solution for all people you want to engage?”
As a former teacher and a continuing education instructor for adult learners, I can tell you that that learners can have different sources of motivation, some intrinsic and some extrinsic. Why then, in education, do we focus on systems that formally recognize people at the very top (who are typically intrinsically motivated)? My student teaching supervisor used to remind, “Success breeds success,” so that we would remember to target learners who needed motivation the most.
If you are building social networks, you may find that motivation varies from participant to participant. In Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, Clay Shirky noted that the greatest amount of contributions will come from a relatively small amount of people while the vast majority will make only a few contributions. Should we apply the same strategy for motivating the minority as we do the majority? Would followers, posts, comments, ranks and badges that would reveal the extreme disparity between these groups do more harm than good when trying to coax newcomers into the fold?
Whether you are motivating your staff, potential donors, or prospective students, consider the possibility that there is no one-size-fits-all motivator, assess groups to find out what motivates them, and personalize your incentives!