“The puzzle of motivation” TED Talk – notes

To put it mildly, I didn’t do very well. I, in fact, graduated in the part of my law school class that made the top 90% possible.”

“The key is to overcome what’s called functional fixedness. You look at that box and you see it only as a receptacle for the tacks. But it can also have this other function, as a platform for the candle. The candle problem.”

  • External motivation works only for simple left-brain tasks; it’s counterproductive for tasks requiring lateral thinking. (“I’m going to time you to establish norms” vs “If you’re the fastest we’re testing here today, you get $20”)
  • Carrots and sticks work mostly for easily outsourceable jobs

“reward actually narrows our focus and restricts our possibility.”

Think about your own work. Are the problems that you face, or even the problems we’ve been talking about here, do they have a clear set of rules, and a single solution? No. The rules are mystifying. The solution, if it exists at all, is surprising and not obvious. Everybody in this room is dealing with their own version of the candle problem.”

It makes me crazy. And here’s the thing. This is not a feeling. Okay? I’m a lawyer; I don’t believe in feelings. This is not a philosophy. I’m an American; I don’t believe in philosophy.”

  • “autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives.Mastery: the desire to get better and better at something that matters. Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. These are the building blocks of an entirely new operating system for our businesses.”


  • Those 20th century rewards, those motivators we think are a natural part of business, do work, but only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances.
  • Those if-then rewards often destroy creativity.
  • Three: The secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive– the drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things cause they matter.


Intrinsic VS Extrinsic motivation @ p2pfoundation