Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation

May 13, 2013
post startup

I have mentored at Startup Weekend Auckland last weekend and noticed an interesting pattern. Participants that were at the weekend with the goal to win the competition were less motivated in the teams they were in if they thought the team is not doing well. Participants that were at the weekend primarily to learn something and did not care too much about winning were highly motivated and performed really well. Teams consisting exclusively out of participants who wanted to learn were very receptive to external input and managed to deliver a very good product. The winning team was formed by participants that wanted to learn, they were very motivated and executed very well as a team.

So, how come trying to win is in the way of winning?

It comes down to intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation. If your motivation is trying to achieve something real bad and your task involves non-trivial problems, or highly creative tasks then any focus on the goal slows you down. If the task is a highly repetitive task then extrinsic motivation works very well. I had seen this before and remembered the candle problem outlined here: Wikipedia: The candle problem

Intrinsic motivation should always be the one that you push in your startup. Trying to motivate you and your team by extrinsic motivators will hinder your performance as a team and will be in your way to make best use of your creativity. Always look for a way to push intrinsic motivators and your productivity and creativity will rise.