Culture of Intrinsic Motivation LO10229
Sat, 28 Sep 1996 13:28:31 +1200 (NZST)

Replying to LO10197 --

Rol wrote

>I cannot tell you exactly why Bean people are so committed, but
>if forced to speculate, I would say that the company's focus is
>on excellence and service, and these are values that will drive
>motivation. It is interesting that you mentioned the
>self-evident truths, because I think these -- excellence and
>service -- are values that most people very naturally accept and
>support enthusiastically. For me, striving for excellence and
>serving others both qualify as SETs.

>I think when the 'calling' is not as strong as it is for teachers and
>social workers,
>then the organization needs to be a lot better in order to attract the
>same levels of intrinsic motivation.
>It is difficult in our society to create this same intrinsic motivation in
>the blue collar jobs, but it is not at all impossible.

And Joan responded

>The reasons for this are several. Every person wants to excel at
>whatever they do. Each respects high standards of quality,
>honesty, productivity, integrity and other straightforward, easy
>to understand values. Almost everyone wants to join efforts to do
>"great" things, to accomplish difficult things which are "highly
>respectable" as judged against that person's value standards.
>Almost everyone feels very positive emotions over things which
>surpass their own standards and they "willing" join such


>If Rol's comment on blue versus white collar means that intrinsic
>motivation is harder to stimulate in blue, our experience has
>indicated the opposite to be true to a significant extent. This
>experience relates to excellence and service and not education or
>the environment. Straightforward values are a strength of less
>educated people and they are very responsive to their use in the
>routine work day. Quality and service are elements which they see
>everyday right in front of them in terms of customers or
>products, making them very receptive to achieving higher
>standards. They have less questions and have little tendency to
>wax philosophical or to bring in extraneous issues than their
>more educated white collar comrades.

I think there is something missing in this dialogue. Although Rol does
mention the 'higher calling' of teachers and social workers, both Rol and
Joan seem to suggest that 'excellence', 'customer service' and so on, are
values in themselves. I don't think they are. I think they are descriptors
of quality of performance. Values are to do with the actions themselves
and their purposes.

When we think of values in this way, then it is our research experience
that both blue and white collar workers are predisposed to focus in on the
qualities of their work rather than the value of their work when they have
doubts about justifying what it is that they do. It is very comforting to
be able to focus on profits (white collar) or product quality (blue
collar) as ultimate values if the product is, say, cigarettes.

It is our experience that workers at all levels of an organisation and all
levels of education have a need to feel that what they do is socially
useful. For that last statement we have some research evidence. For what
follows we have very little, but it is a hypothesis I would like to hear

It would be my guess that in any given activity system the less certain
people are of whether or not what they do is socially useful the more
likely we are to find self-referential rationalisations, greater emphasis
on extrinsic motivators, and greater emphasis on the quality of
performance as something worthwhile in itself.

My guess is that the experience which Joan describes is less a function of
the education levels of the people concerned, and more a function of the
ways in which their work has been historically organised, and the extent
to which the wider purpose of their work is clear to them. By this last
point I mean that we encounter many process and clerical workers who do
indeed contribute to the production of socially useful and admirable
products, but whose work is defined, managed and organised in such a way
that they are entirely alienated and detached from any sense of personal
involvement with it.

Phillip Capper
WEB Research
New Zealand


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