Why We Work: A Look at What Motivates in the Knowledge Economy

Posted by Meghan Neal

According to behavioral economist Dan Ariely, our current view of why people work is far too simplistic. When the the industrial revolution gave way to the knowledge economy we're now in, efficiency gave way to meaning. Now more than ever, it's not just compensation that motivates us to work, it's how connected we feel to our work. It's creation, challenge, ownership, identity, pride and so on.

These are the motivators CEOs and leaders have to consider to keep employees happy and productive, Ariely explains in his TED Talk on the subject, posted Monday.
 
He backs it up with several social experiments that get to the bottom of what makes us tick in the workplace. From the research he found that we get joy from the fruits of our labor—the result. We need to feel the pride comes from great effort. And we need to feel the satisfaction that comes from a sense of progress.
 
Ariely says:
The bad news is, ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of their eyes…the good news is that by simply looking at something that someone has done—scanning it and saying 'uh huh'—that seems to be quite sufficient to dramatically improve people's motivations. so the good news is that adding motivation doesn't seem to be so difficult, the bad news is eliminating motivation seems to be incredibly easy.
The takeaway? It's worth it to put time, energy and effort into getting people to care about what they're doing. 
 
Watch the talk here:
 

Image via (cc) flickr user wizmo