Intrinsic Motivation

Seth Godin has an interesting post today concerning six, lobsters and videotape:

Today, in anticipation of a dinner party, I stopped at a lobster seller in Chelsea Market in NYC. I asked for a six pound lobster. The pricing at the store is $9.95 a pound for small lobsters and $8.95 a pound for lobsters six pounds and up.

The lobster weighed (I’m not making this up), 5.97 pounds. For reference, that’s just less than a pound by the weight of a penny. Feed the lobster a plankton and it would be six pounds.

He started to ring me up at $9.95 a pound. I pointed out the price breakdown and the guy shrugged and said, “It doesn’t weight six pounds.”

Two co-workers came over and with precisely the same uncomprehending grin, repeated his point. I added a penny to the scale but they weren’t swayed.

So, the two questions are, “Do you think the owner wanted them to act this way?” and “Would they have acted differently if they were on camera?”

I believe that the best motivation is self-motivation. That teaching people the right thing to do is far more effective than intimidating them into acting out of fear.

Seth brings up the critical difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation: if you can create a culture that encourages people to act on the basis of self-motivation, you’re likely to have good relations between workers, good customer service, and best of all, a place that churns out innovation. Why? Because intrinsic motivation leads to enjoyment, flow and meaning. Ask Honda or Cox.