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Use Custom Incentives To Stimulate Breakthroughs

Apr 10, 2008
The best ways to encourage people to accomplish a task has become an eternal debate among those who study motivation. It's easy to define an incentive as simply what motivates someone to focus on the right things at the right time and in the right way.

It's helpful to create incentives to use skills well. What's the best way to do that?

Some focus on freedom of scope and action. Others emphasize money. Still others mention recognition (awards and prizes, for example) or promotion. Another perspective includes the balance of risk and reward as perceived by the person receiving the incentives. Other experts point to the relevance of what the incentive is being applied to, focusing on the right causes to get the right effects. Beyond that, doing work that has personal meaning is becoming ever more important.

This debate continues because there is some important truth in each point of view. The real challenge lies in determining how and when to combine elements from the various viewpoints.

One Size Doesn't Fit All

From the earliest research on this subject by experts such as Elton Mayo and his famous studies of the Hawthorne Works in Illinois, it has been clear that each person finds work inspiring in different ways from the next person.

If you ask people, they'll tell you what motivates them. In fact, in complex situations, they can tell you what combinations of factors are the most meaningful incentives.

To get candid answers, however, you will have to create enough trust. Otherwise, you will simply make the person you are asking fearful that you are trying to reduce her or his incentives.

And in some cases, people may not be aware of what would motivate them in situations they haven't experienced before. You can experiment using simulated environments to find out.

You should especially find out if your enterprise's purpose is inspiring to each person. Few companies can fulfill their peoples' need for inspiring work with the firm's purpose.

This is unfortunate because inspiring work is a powerful motivator. Those who are uninspired by the company's purpose, work, and goals might be happier and more productive elsewhere.

Many companies are now proud to offer so-called cafeteria benefit programs that allow employees to pick and choose from among many benefits the combination that is most valuable to them. The same kind of approach is useful regarding incentives.

Incentives aren't only money. In many cases, a good word at the right time or a nice note can count for more than a big bonus. For companies with few resources, simply getting the right training and tools can be highly motivational.

What incentives can you use to motivate each of your colleagues?
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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