Motivation Workshop at CBS

27 October 2006 at 9:47 am 1 comment

| 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.

Entry filed under: - Foss -, Management Theory. Tags: .

What’s So Great About Tacit Knowledge? What’s So Great About Tacit Knowledge? — Cont’d

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Awie Foong  |  9 April 2007 at 5:31 am

    Personally I think the idea of crowding is conceptually wrong! And the popularity and extensive use of the crowding theory in management studies is rather worrying.

    The idea of intrinsic motivation is a very powerful one, but often it is not being defined properly in the context of a study. Two problems pertain to both Deci (and Ryan), and Frey’s works:
    1) Intrinsic motivation is defined using subjective, rather than objective terms. e.g. Intrinsic motivation is defined as the engagement in an activity because it is enjoyable (sic!), fun (sic!), challenging (sic!) etc. but without considering individual differences. Different people are likely to interpret enjoyment, fun, or challenging differently.
    2) Not only that the subjective interpretations of intrinsic motivation differ from one person to another, the desires towards each of them also differ from one to another.

    Deci’s SDT conveniently confine basic human needs to just three needs: competence, relatedness, and self determination (as commented by Siegwart Lindenberg in his 2001 KYKLOS paper… and I wonder if he said anything about this at the workshop).

    I would suggest more management studies start to reconsider their assumptions about intrinsic motivation and human nature (e.g. Theory of the firm should recognize its limitation in accounting for individual differences), and start using intrinsic motivation theories that are more multifaceted (e.g. Lindenberg’s theory of social production functions, or Steven Reiss’s sensitivity theory and the 16 fundamental motives).

    Thanks & regards,
    Awie

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