Our behavior cannot be fully explained by our need to satisfy our biological cravings or to seek reward and avoid punishment
In a complex society, co-operation became essential for everyone’s security and sanity. The biological drive, Motivation 1.0, was there, but it was constrained by society’s rules and regulations. That way, Mr. A would not end up snatching the food meant for Mr. B and his family. Thus, the need to seek society’s rewards and avoid its punishments also became a driver of our behavior — Motivation 2.0.
Motivation 1.0 ensured we survived in the wild and evolved to live in viable, self-sustaining communities, while Motivation 2.0 brought us unparalleled economic progress engineered by such innovations as the Industrial Revolution and Scientific Management.
Motivation 2.0 is easy to understand, simple to monitor and straightforward to enforce. But as the dotcom bust and the subprime mortgage crisis at the beginning of the 21st-century shows, our society’s complexity is outgrowing it for three reasons.
One, open-source is the way we now organize what we do. Examples abound around us — Wikipedia, with hundreds of millions of regular users; Firefox browser, with 350 million users; Linux operating system, powering 1 out of every 4 corporate servers, and the Apache web server, which powers 52% of all corporation servers.
Two, irrationally is how we now think about what we do. We used to believe we, as economic agents, made rational wealth-maximizing choices every time. That changed in 2002 with the award of the Nobel Prize for Economics to Daniel Kahneman, an American psychologist, for his work in demonstrating that we do not necessarily make wealth-maximizing choices every time we act as economic agents; which is an irrational thing for us to do. That, of course, made us question every assumption Motivation 2.0 was based on.
Three, heuristically is how we now do what we do. Work has become more complex — there are now more jobs that is heuristic or creative in nature than algorithmic or routine; and as a result, more interesting and more self-directed. Motivation 2.0 would work perfectly for algorithmic or routine work but would impair heuristic or creative work.
Heuristic or creative work requires another kind of drive, a third drive, the one Professor of psychology Harry F. Harlow termed ‘intrinsic motivation’ — the need to perform creative work simply for the intellectual fulfillment one gets for doing it. In that context, the rewards and punishments of Motivation 2.0 become totally irrelevant.
Welcome to Motivation 3.0!