On “motivation”, of everyone

Motivation (that is, what drives us) has had a long history of research. I came across Maslow while doing my MBA in 1980s. But what I want to share with you today is a wonderful framework suggested by Daniel Pink (read his unputdownable book called “Drive”).

Pink suggests that our motivation is linked to three levers – Relevance (is this meaningful for me; does it connect with my work; how does it help me;), Autonomy (do I have any control; do I get to decide something; do I have any choice), and Mastery (can I do it; do I have the requisite knowledge and skills; do I have a sense of self-efficacy;).

This framework can be applied for any set of people, including ourselves. For example, whenever you are feeling low, ask yourself – is it because I am not finding my work/task/job relevant or meaningful; is it because I do not have any autonomy/elbow-room; is it because I don’t I have the capability. The answer to these three questions will also tell you the way forward. If you are worried about a member of your team, as a supervisor, you can ask the same three questions and you would find something which can change the situation.

Let me show you this framework works at the level of students in a learning situation. As a teacher, when you start a new unit/topic, students are asking (in their mind) why I am learning this? If we can show them how this topic/knowledge is used in the real life, they are more likely to see its relevance. As an educator, in a classroom, we decide what students will learn, how they will learn and how they will be assessed – that is, very low autonomy! Can we try giving them choice from time to time? Finally, if students feel a low sense of self-efficacy for a given topic/subject, they are likely to become disengaged. Our job, then, is to ensure that such students are comfortable with the prerequisite knowledge related to the given topic/unit.

As you can see, this framework of R.A.M. gives us a tool to make our teaching more engaging for every student.

 In my next blog, I will share my explorations on the idea of “prerequisite knowledge” and how it can be the most powerful tool in the hands of a teacher to take along every student on the learning journey.