The internalisation model – how we have created responsive behaviour

Motivation is one of my favorite subjects to talk about. For years I have been passioned about motivation, giving talks and workshops about the subject. The first model I visualized (and still use a lot), is the internalization model. It originates from the Self Determination Theory.

Everything you do is based on a specific type of motivation. It’s the reasoning behind your actions. Quite often we are not even aware of these reasons. Internalized motivation is the polarization at which your motivation comes from yourself, versus an external factor. Highly internalized motivation comes primarily from yourself, and low internalized motivation comes from external factors.

According to the Self Determination Theory, internalization can be broken down into five areas:

  1. External motivation => Forced. This is when you act primarily based on external factors (you want the money, or you are trying to avoid punishment)
  2. Introjected motivation => Pressure. Whenever someone pressures you into something, you are motivated from this level. Salespeople are exceptionally well skilled in using this type of motivation (usually called manipulation) to get people to purchase.
  3. Identified motivation => Social. The motivation to do something for someone you care about. Doing the dishes for your partner is a good example.
  4. Integrated motivation => Goals. Anything that you personally would like to achieve, but haven’t achieved yet. The internalization is high here, but you are still depending on something you haven’t accomplished yet. Basically, any skill that you want to learn.
  5. Intrinsic motivation => Experience. And eventually, the motivation level that everyone talks about these days, Intrinsic Motivation. Intrinsic Motivation only occurs when you don’t care about a specific outcome. The experience of doing it is rewarding enough in itself.

At work, these five levels are constantly used by colleagues and companies. Few people realize what the effects are.

The internalization determines for a large part how we behave.

Fully externalized motivation leads to responsive and passive behavior. People who are used to being pressured or always expect rewards or punishments will mainly respond to those specific stimuli. Whenever these stimuli are absent, these people show passive behavior. We have taught them to only act when we want them (through our external motivation). Many organizations are still showing these problems, where employees show responsive or passive behavior. But that’s not because they want to, it’s because our industry created that type of behavior!

On the other hand, Intrinsic Motivation leads to proactive and self-determined behavior. People who understand why their contribution is important, will fight for the companies vision and find new ways to realize this vision while making use of their own skills.

Methods like Agile (slowly even entering non-ICT departments) are highly dependent on Intrinsic Motivation, but there is still little awareness of how this works. And we cannot even influence employees based on Intrinsic Motivation (if we could influence it, it would not be intrinsic anymore). Fortunately, we can use Integrated Motivation to motivate employees. By making employees understand what the vision and the purpose of a product and company is. We need to make them understand how they as an individual can contribute to our vision.

Extrinsic Motivation overrules Intrinsic Motivation

The most dangerous thing about extrinsic motivation is that it overrules already existant Intrinsic Motivation. Take painting for example… Painting is an activity that most children like to do for fun. Research shows that when these children are given external rewards – they are given money – these external rewards will slowly overrule our already existent Intrinsic Motivation. Over time, there will be no Intrinsic Motivation left. At that moment, these people will only paint when they are being forced or pressured. Their Intrinsic Motivation has been completely overruled.

Intrinsic Motivation enhanced our creative ability

Over the last decade, another experiment has been conducted over and over again, called: ‘The Candle Problem‘. This experiment uses a puzzle, which can only be solved by thinking out of the box.

Two groups are presented with this puzzle. Group 1 hears that the fastest person to solve this puzzle gets a reward in the form of prize money. They are being motivated externally.

Group 2 doesn’t hear anything. They will just solve the puzzle using their own motivation.

And over the years, the result has been the same: the group that does not receive money is faster in solving this puzzle.

Conclusion: People who do not expect an external reward, are better at solving complex puzzles.

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