In this episode, Andrew and David introduce the broad topic of “motivation.” David describes intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation and how motivation practices are usually manipulation tactics that don’t work over the long term. So what do we do instead?
0:00:02.2 Andrew Stotz: My name is Andrew Stotz, and I’ll be your host as we continue our journey into the teachings of Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Today, I’m continuing my discussion with David P. Langford, who has devoted his life to applying Dr. Deming’s philosophy to education, and he offers us his practical advice for implementation. Today’s topic is, The Best Way To Motivate. Take it away, David.
0:00:30.2 David Langford: Thank you, Andrew. It’s good to be back again.
0:00:34.4 AS: Indeed.
0:00:35.6 DL: So, yeah, I wanted to start actually a whole series on motivation and in this podcast, we’re gonna talk a little bit about two different types of motivation and how people go about motivating people and things like that. But then, we’re gonna start a five podcast series breaking down the five key elements that I found over the last 40 years that really cause motivation to happen. So in this introduction podcast right now, I wanna talk a little bit about motivation. So the topic of that, what’s the best way to motivate? You can’t. So let’s kind of get that out of the way.
0:01:20.7 AS: Don’t bury the lead, David. [laughter]
0:01:21.9 DL: Yeah, you can’t really motivate somebody. You can’t even motivate your dog to do things. You can manipulate your dog to get a result but in the end, your dog or your child or students in classrooms or your employees or whatever, they all have to come to the conclusion that they’re motivated to do this job for their… Whatever that might be and that it’s their idea. And so it’s all about creating an intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation environment. And I know this is contrary to all the literature that’s out there and everything, and every motivational guru on the planet that’s trying to get you to buy something that motivates us. And I was recalling that I was on an airplane one time and I was sitting next to this guy and you strike up a conversation sometimes and he said, “Ah, what do you do?”
0:02:30.4 DL: And so I told him a little bit about what I do and how I help school try to transform and get better results and what they do and everything. “Oh, that’s really interesting, tell me more about that.” And so we did and we got onto the topic of intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic motivation. And I just started talking about you can’t really motivate people with trinkets and gimmicks and awards and all kinds of things like that. And we got in a big discussion about trophies and sports and all kinds of things like that. [chuckle] And just as we’re starting to land the airplane, I said to him, oh, I said, “Well, you know, I never got around to you.” I said, “What do you do?” He says, “Well, I have a company that makes trophies.” [laughter] And then it was like dead-silence. Oh, we landed the plane and got off the plane.
0:03:26.5 AS: You went your separate ways.
0:03:28.2 DL: Yeah. He did say, oh, I think I understand, but he’s gonna keep making his trophies and making money, so…
0:03:39.4 AS: Yeah.
0:03:39.9 DL: And there’s a lot of money to be made in it, especially in education, there’s just whole catalogs. I get catalogs in the mail even today, about all the awards and trophies and everything and how you can motivate kids to do this and that and it’s… Deming was the first one that kind of took a board and slapped it up inside of my head and just said, “Stop it.” In fact I remember one of his conferences, somebody asked a question, “Well, Dr. Deming, I’m in a company that’s trying to motivate us with a pay and pay for performance and games and gimmicks and sell so much stuff, and you get a free trip to Aruba and what do I do?” And his response was, “Well, you can always stop doing something that’s stupid.” And that, it was just… He had this knack of these phrases that would just cut through to people. Yeah, you can stop it. You can say, “Okay, I’m not gonna participate in that.” I’m not gonna play it. I’m not gonna play that game. And so what do we do instead?
0:05:01.4 AS: And before we even get into that, what does it mean? What does motivate mean? Because you’ve used the word, manipulate and you’ve used the word, motivate. Can you define…
0:05:13.3 DL: That’s kind of emerged over the last 100 or 150 years or so, as a way to try to get people to do something that basically that you don’t think they wanna do. [chuckle] So whether that’s kids learning math or it’s an employee not getting the productivity that you think that they should get. But basically, I’m the leader, I’m the manager, and I want you to do something that you’re currently not doing. And so, I’m gonna do something to you to make you do it.
0:05:55.1 AS: Which sounds like external pressure or external…
0:05:58.7 DL: External pressure. We’re gonna motivate you to do stuff. And typically that’s what we call extrinsic motivation, I’m gonna do something to you or I’m gonna take something away – that’s really popular in schools. “Well, you’re gonna have to stay in a recess, you’re not gonna have any recess if you don’t get that done” or “You don’t do what I tell you, you’re gonna be sitting in the hall. So what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna take away all of your relationships and isolate you.” And, well, that’s the same concept we use in prisons, right? We isolate people. We put them in confinement and if you’re really bad, then you get into total isolation. Don’t even get to talk to any of your other inmates. Well, it’s the same depth of motivation that is in schools today all over the world.
0:06:51.6 DL: People are still using those techniques to try to get people to do something that they’re either not doing or they want them to do. So, it’s really important to figure out what do you do instead? If you’re gonna stop doing something stupid, [chuckle] and what are you gonna do instead? And that’s where Deming really reinforced intrinsic motivation. That your job is to create a situation where people can be intrinsically motivated, that they actually want to do the job. And that’s a whole different way to look at what you do. How do I set up a classroom so that kids can be intrinsically motivated? Now, none of these things are a light switch, where you can just switch it on and switch it off, “I’m going to switch on intrinsic motivation and switch off extrinsic motivation.” In fact, with children, if they’ve been addicted to intrinsic motivation tactics for years, everything from grades, to prizes, to awards, to just little trinkets that they can get, stickers even, all kinds of things, sometimes it takes time to wean them off of that over time, and have it have the less and less meaning.
0:08:32.1 DL: I’ll give you an example, the thing about stickers… I’ll often get elementary teachers say, “Well, you know what’s wrong with that? Somebody does a good job, I’m gonna give them a sticker.” Or, When I was a child in piano lessons, I got a gold star if I did a good job in my piano lesson and the teacher would put a star on it, by it and… The problem with those things, it’s not that it’s evil or anything, it’s just that you’re taking away the emphasis towards working towards the thing that you want ’em to do and love and understand. So, if the only reason I’m doing this is to try to get a sticker, [chuckle] you’ve just reduced the thing that I’m doing to the value of a sticker. So there’s no real conversation or a relationship going on where you’re saying, “Hey, man this… You really did a great job on that. How does that make you feel to be able to understand that or explain something to that degree?” You wanna tap into that inner person about that understanding something is probably the greatest motivation. “I just feel really good about that.” That’s why you get children that when they finally get it, a hard concept of something and they’re like, “Oh! I got it.” They’re really forward in…
0:10:08.9 AS: They’re really enjoying the process, too.
0:10:11.0 DL: Yeah, they’re really forward in their emotions and they actually put that out. But employees in business, sometimes when there’s a breakthrough like that, it’s more internal for them. They’re just like, “Oh yeah, okay, I got this. I really worked that through.” And if you come in and just reduce it to some type of extrinsic motivator… Even if I just come in and say, “Atta boy, good job, well done, Frank.” And then you leave the room, and then Frank is sitting there and thinking, “I put hours and hours into working through this and going through this, and all I got is, “Good job, Frank,’ and a pat on the back.”
0:10:51.3 AS: “You’re gonna get Employee of the Month, Frank.”
0:10:55.4 DL: Yeah, so the message is, “Next time, stupid, don’t work so hard.” You can always stop doing something stupid. And Frank learns just do whatever the boss wants, don’t put any extra effort in or go through stuff. All right, but some people will come back and say, “Well, I like to have more money.” And that’s a motivation. And it’s actually not. Yes, we have to have money to survive, but the examples are millions of people that are making tremendous amounts of money, but they’re not motivated to do the job. We can look at pro athletes. They make millions of dollars and some of them are still not motivated. [chuckle]
0:11:54.5 AS: Right. Or when the motivation stops, money can’t re-ignite it.
0:12:00.7 DL: No.
0:12:00.8 AS: Let me ask you a question about this from let’s say a classroom perspective. Let’s say I’m a teacher in a classroom, and I’m a piano teacher, as an example, and we’ve got a group of 20 kids and yeah, there’s a few of them that are really into it, and then there’s a lot of ’em that just don’t wanna do it. David, can I just use the gold stars for those ones just to kind of like, [laughter] a doggy bone, like, “Come on, over to the piano.” What do I do?
0:12:27.1 DL: Or what used to be the norm in Catholic schools, “Can’t I just whack ’em on the back of their hands with a ruler and get them to shut up or do whatever it is I want them to do?” Yeah…
0:12:42.7 AS: Carrot or stick.
0:12:42.8 DL: You can do those kinds of things, but eventually, you’re going to have to tap into an intrinsic motivation. And so your example in a class, if I got a few kids that are really into it, whatever it is we’re doing or working on or whatever, and they’re really working at it, I’d probably give those children a chance to talk about, “Why are they into that? Why do you like this so much? Or why do you like practicing so much if you’re learning an instrument? And how do you go about that? What do you do? And how do you find a place in your house that’s quiet and where you can concentrate if you’re trying to read or” Because what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to use the people that are already self-motivated, and to give insights to people that are not self-motivated, to try to understand that it’s not just because you’re just smart, right? Probably doing a number of things that are making you be successful, and those things could be shared with other people. In the same way with employees, instead of just giving an employee of the month, I’d probably have somebody that’s really doing a great job explain, how are they doing that great job? What’s the process that they’re using? How do they go about it? How do they set up their workspace? Whatever it might be, because I want other employees to go, “Oh, that’s what they’re doing. I could do that.” [chuckle]
0:14:13.1 AS: And is that because you want them to try to explore where is their area that they can bring them so then… Okay, you’re not gonna… I got 20 people in this room, and all 20 of them are not gonna be piano lovers and virtuosos. So it’s not necessarily the process of getting everybody on that piano all the time, it’s the process of who are the people really love it, let them shine, let them share, and let other people say, “Okay, I don’t like piano, but I do like working on fixing my neighbor bicycles, and people bring bicycles to me every day, and I fix them, and I just love that feeling,” or I don’t know. I’m just trying to think about it. How would you describe it?
0:14:54.7 DL: Yeah, that’s right, and that goes back to Deming’s concept of understanding variation, that you’re going to have variable degrees of performance or ability or whatever it might be. And Deming talked about sometimes people are just in the wrong job. [chuckle] And maybe you can move them to another job in the same company that they might like more or they might be well-suited for, or the same thing in a school, right? Like example of what you were talking about, that somebody is much more suited to and enjoy working on motorcycles versus just playing the piano or something. But it doesn’t mean that they can’t reach a minimum level of skill and understanding about how to play the piano, maybe to the point where they decide, “Okay, I know I don’t wanna be doing this.” [laughter]
0:15:57.6 AS: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
0:16:00.7 DL: That’s also motivation, right? And what is your motivation? What do you wanna do?
0:16:07.2 AS: Yeah, yeah.
0:16:07.4 DL: And I get… So in my seminars, I get teachers coming up to me all the time, and I always think, “Oh, they’re gonna ask a complicated question about, “I’ve got this kid in my class, and how do I get him motivated and everything.” I’d say probably eight or nine times out of 10, they come up and they wanna talk about their child. [laughter] “My son is having a problem in this class. How do I get… ” “My daughter can’t get along with her teacher. What would we do about that?” Because that’s really a very personal thing that’s going on within them. But then to get them to see that, “Okay, well, the kinds of things that maybe you’re doing in the class is demotivating a large number of students.” It’s all kinds of things. There’s variability in time, for instance, right? So if I give you a… If I give a group of people a complex math problem, there probably is somebody in that room that could solve it in a matter of minutes.
0:17:14.7 AS: Right.
0:17:15.5 DL: But there’d be others of us that might need a lot of help. But we could probably get to a level of… Minimum level of solving it or understanding it given enough time, but the problem is, like in schools, we wanna truncate the time always, right?
0:17:34.1 AS: Right.
0:17:34.6 DL: “Gotta get this done in the next 10 minutes,” or, “You gotta get it done by Friday.” We don’t have this deep understanding of variability and how to manage variation in performance. And so what we do is we make time rigid, but we make learning flexible. So basically, you learn any amount you want as long as you get it done by Friday because we’ve made the time rigid.
0:18:00.4 AS: Right.
0:18:00.5 DL: And we talked about that earlier, about a deadline and… Right? Well, when you reverse that and you begin to understand how to manage a system and manage the variability of the people in that system. Then everybody starts to be more well-motivated by themselves internally, which means you have to do less and less external motivation. You just have people coming in and doing their job and going to work, same way in the company. Yeah.
0:18:32.0 AS: I feel like even just having a discussion with your students or employees about the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is right there something interesting, just to have that discussion.
0:18:48.0 DL: Yeah, I have five children, and we started those discussions, my wife and I started those discussions with them when they’re two or three years old. “You’re not doing this to get a sucker… If you do this, I’ll give you a sucker or a lolly.” No, we want you to clean up your room because that’s the right thing to do. So maybe I’ll come and help you clean up your room and we’ll do it together, and that might be a lot more fun then. And then we could talk about how can you keep your room clean so you don’t find yourself in this mess, because how do you feel when you have a really messy room?
0:19:32.1 AS: Yep. Yeah, I’m sure that you would have some great tips of, “Okay, here’s the way I would do it if I… When I’ve had this problem,” and ‘Oh, okay, I didn’t even think about that, put all my whites in a pile over there and put all my dark colors… ”
0:19:49.1 DL: Exactly.
0:19:50.3 AS: Over there just to have a… Make a game out of it or something like that.
0:19:50.6 DL: Yeah, and that’s totally different than me isolating you as punishment and saying your room is dirty, go to your room until that room is cleaned up.
0:20:00.4 AS: Yeah.
0:20:00.6 DL: Right? It’s the same thing we talked about earlier. I’m gonna extrinsically motivate you to get that done and work that through versus trying to spend time, and part of it is just kid’s probably really happy that you’re there.
0:20:16.6 AS: Yeah.
0:20:17.4 DL: Right? I got a relationship now with somebody and let’s work on this together and over time…
0:20:23.4 AS: Yeah, I don’t want to be in my room alone.
0:20:25.9 DL: Yeah, and this over time, then let’s figure out how do we make sure it always stays cleaned up.
0:20:32.1 AS: Yeah.
0:20:33.8 DL: But you have to understand the difference between a clean room and a dirty room, and how that makes you feel. And you’ll have kids that will say, I have kids that say, “Well, I like it messy like this.” “Really? You couldn’t find your book yesterday because it was under a pile of clothes. You have been wearing dirty clothes to school, because… ”
0:20:57.9 AS: “Your room’s stinky. People can smell… ”
0:21:00.4 DL: Yeah.
0:21:00.6 AS: Yeah.
0:21:02.1 DL: Right. And it’s not necessarily all just about you, it’s how does it affect other people that you’re dealing with, right? What do you think other family members are thinking about you when your room is a disaster and you’re not taking care of yourself and you don’t smell good and…
0:21:22.4 AS: Right.
0:21:23.9 DL: Right.
0:21:26.4 AS: I wanna explain an experience that I had when I was young, and maybe you can help me understand the extrinsic and the intrinsic aspect of it. I went to Kent State when I was kind of first starting out, and I didn’t really know what I was gonna study. I thought I was gonna study maybe Psychology, but the first professor I had, I was really not impressed. I felt like he just read this book about Psychology, and so I was searching and I found an Economics 101, Ecom 101, and I went into this classroom and it was huge, it was 200 students in there, hustle bustle. I got in the room, I sat down, the room was divided by a walkway down the middle, so there was 100 students on one side and 100 on the other. The teacher came kinda bounding down the stairs and came in front of all of us on that first day and he said, “There is 200 people in this room, a 100 of you will be gone by the time we get to the end of this term, and there will, out of the 100 that will remain, I will give 10, A’s. Let’s get started.”
0:22:29.6 AS: Now that guy set a fire, it’s just… I don’t know why, I never had somebody say something like that. And all of a sudden, what I started doing is I sat right in the front row, and I told myself, I’m gonna get an A, I’m gonna survive and I’m gonna get an A. And then I started to study differently, every day after class, I sat down at a cubicle outside the room, and I re-wrote my notes with the book open and I went through it and everything, and then I would ask the teacher questions either at his office or in the room. When I had questions as I was trying to clarify. And he sparked a whole new way of studying for me that really carried me through university, but also sparked a fire of wanting to learn and the challenge of learning. And I think I read, I don’t know, 3000 to 5000 books since that day. And he lit a fire in me, and I always tell my students, “I wanna light that fire in you.” Now, part of that was extrinsic and then part of it was intrinsic. But can you tell me what happened to me on that day? [laughter]
0:23:35.1 DL: Well, it sounds to me like a professor that doesn’t know what his job is, right?
0:23:40.1 AS: Yeah.
0:23:41.6 DL: His job is not just to weed out the bad ones, or weed out the ones that are not motivated to learning Economics, right?
0:23:49.6 AS: Mm-hmm.
0:23:49.6 DL: He’s got 200 students in that class. His job is to produce 200 people who love Economics. So Deming talked about that a lot. So you don’t know what your job is. That’s not motivation, just to weed out all the people that don’t adapt to the style that I have in the classroom, right?
0:24:18.9 AS: Right.
0:24:18.9 DL: Yeah, what happened with you…
0:24:20.1 AS: Yeah, me too. I’m sure that didn’t motivate majority of people the way it motivated me.
0:24:23.4 DL: Oh yeah.
0:24:24.2 AS: It worked for me.
0:24:25.7 DL: I probably would have gotten up and walked out of that class right there. Because I would have been in the 100 people that aren’t gonna be there. Or the old thing, look to the right, look to the left, one of those people won’t be here at the end. That’s not motivation, that’s survival, right?
0:24:43.2 AS: Right. Right.
0:24:44.4 DL: You’re just trying to survive that experience. Now, you personally decided the way you’re gonna survive it, is you’re gonna work hard and you’re gonna learn this. But there was probably also a level of intrinsic motivation for Economics that you tapped into, right?
0:25:06.2 AS: Right.
0:25:06.6 DL: You realized, “Hey, look like I like numbers.”
0:25:09.1 AS: Mm-hmm, yup.
0:25:10.4 DL: “And I like working with this, and I’m getting it, and I understand it.”
0:25:14.7 AS: Yeah.
0:25:15.9 DL: Yeah. And then you did a number of things, you changed where you were sitting, you changed your attitude, you went in and you started working with the professor.
0:25:28.4 AS: Yeah.
0:25:28.6 DL: So even though you’re in an environment that was hugely extrinsically motivating… [chuckle]
0:25:39.4 AS: Or demotivating.
0:25:39.6 DL: Yeah, demotivating everybody.
0:25:39.9 AS: Depending on which side of the room you’re on.
0:25:41.4 DL: Right, you chose to rise above the situation and do something different, and you tapped into your love of Economics, which carried on far beyond the class, what you learned in that class, right?
0:25:55.1 AS: Right.
0:25:55.4 DL: Because like you said, I read 3000 books since then, well nobody was telling you to do that, right?
0:26:02.9 AS: Yeah.
0:26:03.1 DL: You weren’t getting graded for it. I’ll tell you that I never read a book for pleasure until I met Deming. You think of that.
0:26:14.1 AS: Wow!
0:26:14.2 DL: My master’s degree, years of experience working schools. It was always because I was being told to do it or forced to do it, or for a grade or whatever it might be, but until I tapped into Deming and intrinsic motivation, that was the first time I thought, “I’m just gonna read this book for pleasure.” And it was… The same kind of thing was kind of a weird thing that I had to go through because my whole life had been spent on extrinsic motivation. And I guess… And I was one of the ones that excelled in that, right? I got the grades, I got the scholarships, I got the prizes, right?
0:26:55.9 AS: The gold star.
0:26:57.7 DL: Right. And when all that ended, then now what? Well, there was no love of learning there. I had to find a way to find that. And that’s what you tapped into.
0:27:08.6 AS: Yep. I feel like, just in wrapping this up, that the story that I remember I’ve read it, but I also remember Dr. Deming telling it at the seminar when I was there, was the story of the little girl who wanted to make the Halloween outfit to be like an angel, and her and her mom worked together on this outfit for weeks to get ready to go to the Halloween party. And of course, it wasn’t beautiful, but it was handcrafted and they had such a great experience. And then they went to this Halloween party, and she was so proud to show it off and all that. And then one of the adults came up with the idea of, “Let’s have a competition. Let’s give a prize to the person that… ” And in the end, of course…
0:27:51.8 DL: “Has the best costume.”
0:27:53.5 AS: Yeah, the best costume. And in the end, of course, she didn’t win.
0:27:55.5 DL: And we as adults are gonna pick the criteria for the best costume. [chuckle]
0:28:00.9 AS: Exactly. And in the end, she didn’t win. She was far down the list. And all of a sudden, she was completely demotivated and realized like they reduced this whole couple of week process down to something just awful. And I always remember that story, and part of what I’ve always said about Dr. Deming is he’s a humanist. He cares about how people feel.
0:28:28.4 DL: Yeah, we’re really good at creating situations to kill the joy of learning, [chuckle] so…
0:28:32.8 AS: I did it right there. That was a story.
0:28:35.5 DL: Yeah.
0:28:37.9 AS: Let me review some of the things that you’ve talked about. First thing is we’re gonna be talking about five key elements that cause motivation or talking about motivation. And one of the things that you said right off the bat is you can’t. You can’t motivate. You can manipulate and do other things. And I think we’re gonna learn more about this over time. We talked about intrinsic motivation also being a bit about setting up the right environment for that intrinsic motivation. Talked about extrinsic means – giving away something, giving some incentive, a carrot or a stick, and that you’re much better off using intrinsic motivation rather than trying to reward people with a gold star, because when you do that, you just reduce it down to some… Even people who are intrinsically motivated can be suckered in to just going after the gold star and…
0:29:38.6 DL: Or money. [chuckle]
0:29:39.6 AS: Yeah, or money, right? Definitely. And they may even sabotage the business or whatever to get that gold star or that money. And then you talked about the idea of the piano thing of when you’ve got a few students in the room that are really doing well with them, having them talk about why they’re… What happened. What they like about it, what’s going on for them, because maybe it’s not gonna be that everybody’s gonna be a piano star, but if they could learn the process or share the process of the excitement, that may be able to be applied in other areas too, for some people. And then you talked about understanding variation, and part of it is understanding that not everybody’s gonna be that star. And I think also the last thing that I think about is that… The thing you said is that people may just be in the wrong job too. Like you can’t necessarily get the best out of someone sometimes because they’re just in the wrong job, and I think that’s kind of a critical one that we oftentimes overlook. Is there anything else that you’d add to that?
0:30:50.9 DL: Well, I was just thinking about special needs kids too. I was talking about teachers coming to me and wanting to talk about their own child.
0:31:00.2 AS: Yep.
0:31:00.3 DL: They say, “Oh my son has ADD or he can’t do this, or he can’t do that, or he’s got this thing in classroom. How do I motivate him to do stuff?” And invariably, I’ll say, “Does he ever do anything on his own over a long period of time?” And invariably, they’ll say things like, “Oh yeah, he loves to make model airplanes, and he’ll go to his room and he’ll spend just hours making model airplanes.” Well, he doesn’t have an ADD problem. He’s got, [chuckle] a motivation problem, right?
0:31:32.2 AS: Mm-hmm.
0:31:33.3 DL: He loves doing that, but he doesn’t love what’s going on at school, so…
0:31:40.2 AS: Turn that.
0:31:40.9 DL: It all depends on the kind of an environment that you’re gonna make, but because we have so many kids that are, like your story, are being demotivated by school, right? Well, what do we do? Well, we’re gonna classify them, we’re gonna call these ADD and we’re gonna call these kids this, and we’re gonna call this that and then we’re gonna medicate this group and not medicate that group, but nobody’s ever saying, “How do we change our system so we have less and less and less of this kind of behavior?”
0:32:11.6 AS: Yeah.
0:32:13.6 DL: And that’s what we’re gonna get to in the next five podcasts.
0:32:17.2 AS: It reminds me of that ACDC song when I was young, “Problem Child.” I’m a problem child. I’ve been labeled. I know exactly what I am.
0:32:25.1 DL: Yeah.
0:32:25.8 AS: Well, David, on behalf of…
0:32:27.5 DL: I’m proud of it. [laughter]
0:32:28.6 AS: Yes, exactly. I’ve got my spot. On behalf of everyone at the Deming Institute, I want to thank you again for this discussion. For listeners, remember to go to deming.org to continue your journey. Listeners can also learn more about David at langfordlearning.com. This is your host, Andrew Stotz, and I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Deming, “People are entitled to joy in work.”