What does intrinsic motivation mean?

Intrinsic motivation is an internal form of motivation with behaviour driven by internal rewards. For example when an employee does something because it is personally rewarding to them.

“A task without a vision is drudgery.

A vision without a task is but a dream.

But a vision with a task is the hope of the world.”

Inscription on a church wall in the county of Sussex, England

“Since the mid-1970’s, new theories have emerged to focus on intrinsic motivational processes and on the “self-systems” that determine an individual’s behaviour. So far, management is mostly unaware of these new developments” (Haasen, p. 9). For example, the results of a research study conducted by Professor Teresa Amabile of Harvard University showed that creativity will be highest when there is strong intrinsic motivation (Haasen, p. 39).

Hassen goes on to describe how this works:

“Intrinsic motivation is itself the “outcome,” the result of a work situation that people enjoy–because they are in charge, because they have the opportunity to acquire new skills and abilities to match a different challenge, or because they are part of a successful team. Intrinsic motivation leads to astounding creativity and productive energy that seems to have virtually no limit” (Haasen, p. 92).

Intrinsic motivation, then, is motivation that comes from the inside of a person. “It is an emotional preference for a task that gives us pleasure and enjoyment” (Haasen, p. 9). Intrinsic motivation arises from having “a strong emotional interest in an activity and a sense of freedom and autonomy related to it” (Haasen, p. 39).

Intrinsic Motivation Examples

Intrinsic motivations tend to be deeper and more personal than extrinsic motivations. And self-motivations are, by definition, intrinsic. The following motivations are likely to be intrinsic (Kushel, p. 69):

  • Enjoyment of the work itself for its own sake
  • Desire to have a “piece of the action,” such as sharing visions, missions, leadership, authority, and responsibility
  • Pride in performing excellently
  • Need to prove some secret point to oneself
  • Achievement of a deep-seated value (such as helping another person)
  • Having a deep and abiding belief in the importance of the work one is doing
  • The excitement and pleasure of a challenge
  • Desire to exceed one’s previous level of job performance (being self-competitive).
  • Being recognised as valuable to the company you work for. If an employee produces good work and their company takes notice, the employee is satisfied and motivated to continue.
  • Inspired by added responsibility

Optimising individual performance – Interventions

In Reaching the Peak Performance Zone, Kushel states that the following actions are likely to motivate peak performers:

  • “Trusting and being trusted
  • A mutual mission
  • TQM
  • Benchmarking
  • Quality circles
  • A mutual, measurable objective
  • A quality work life
  • More money
  • Psychic income” (Kushel, p. 156).

Haasen offers a list of three important characteristics or conditions for achieving high motivation levels in the organizational climate. This new theory of motivation based upon (Haasen, p. 10):

  • Job control/autonomy
  • Learning
  • Teamwork

Future Resume – Helping your company employ the right people

Future Resume lets hiring managers understand the motivations behind the individual they are interviewing. With this information you are more likely to make a better informed decision about how they will perform in the job role they have been interviewing for.

To find out more about Future Resume, please find out how it works here.