Motivation Workshop at CBS
| Nicolai Foss |
Today the unit that I direct at Copenhagen Business School, The Center for Strategic Management and Globalization, arranged a well-attended “Workshop on the Motivational Foundations of Knowledge Sharing.” The workshop was part of a major research project that we run at the Center, the FOKS project (i.e., Foundations of Knowledge Sharing: Behaviors and Governance). It was organized by my very able PhD student, Mia Reinholt.
We were lucky to have two of the most profound thinkers on motivation in psychology and economics giving keynote speeches, namely Edward Deci and Bruno Frey.Deci gave a nice overview of the development of his extremely influential thinking on motivation which has been forming since the early 1970s, and showed how his views go significantly beyond the crude dichotomization between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation that is often invoked in management discourse. For example, Deci now works with four kinds of extrinsic motivation, at least one of which is very close to intrinsic motivation. I was surprised by the radicality of his thought. Deci was highly suspicious of virtually all kinds of rewards, and intrinsic motivation stood out in a wholly positive light.
In his talk, Frey took Deci to task for this, arguing that intrinsically motivated actions may be quite destructive. He invoked examples from warfare. A heated exchange between Deci and Frey followed, Deci arguing that Frey’s examples had a lot to do with craziness and nothing to do with intrinsic motivation.
The main purpose of Frey’s talk, however, was to argue that ideas of intrinsic motivation 1) are completely consistent with a formal economics approach, 2) they are, however, much more radically subversive of traditional economics than other parts of psychology that economists have toyed with (e.g., the Tversky & Kahnemann heuristics and biases literature, and 3) cast a new light over rewards in organizations and taxation. With respect to taxation, Frey developed a series of essentially libertarian ideas on how taxation may crowd out all sorts of voluntary contributions. With respect to rewards, I was again surprised by radicality: Frey is against most kinds of rewards in organizations, and certainly monetary rewards. He very strongly argued that monetary rewards very completely detrimental to university research, invoking Australian which showed that although research productivity in terms of produced articles went up after the introduction of explicit rewards, citations went down. I am not convinced that this need to have anything to do with the crowding out of intrinsic motivation, and in general I think that both Deci and Frey oversell the practical implications of ideas on crowding. Nevertheless, two excellent talks, and a great day.