Simple Strategies to Motivate People

Strategies that motivate people

Recall the best teachers you had. They made learning fun, you remembered the information, and it may have shaped the person you became. You looked forward to going to class.

Stimulating and enjoyable experiences support learning and motivation. Our brains are programmed to remember actions and experiences when there is an element of surprise and excitement.

Motivation is really about getting people to learn and act, all on their own volition.

How to Motivate the Brain

Motivation operates in an interesting way. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure, is released in the brain when people experience “unexpected rewards.”

Unexpected rewards shift people’s priorities and they become motivated to work harder for those rewards. Dopamine is correlated with creativity and focus because the rewarding experience shifts our brain’s prioritization.

It’s quite simple. If you enjoy it and it’s meaningful, you will get into the “zone.” Rewards that are unexpected are simply a mechanism for helping us prioritize what we want to focus on.

To Teach is to Motivate

Want long lasting behavior change or knowledge retainment? When dopamine is present people are more likely to remember their experience. This is the science of reinforcement learning. Dopamine helps in memory formation, when it isn’t present people are less likely to learn and retain knowledge.

Business leaders can use two reward strategies to motivate individuals, getting them into a focused mind-state and reinforce learning. These strategies are important for managing team productivity or increasing consumer brand engagement.

These two strategies should be kept in mind:

1)     Make rewards unexpected and exciting. Exceed expectations. That’s what every reward needs to be in order to be effective. Give recognition that matters. Give a gift that brings joy and memorability.

2)     Associate rewarding experiences with the actions or behaviors you want to reinforce. Making the experience exciting, either during the activity or immediately after. The association must be strong enough that people want to come back for more, or are motivated to explore on their own.

These are ways anyone can compel others to get into a rhythm, shape behavior and support learning. That’s motivation.

Rewards need to offer a sense of surprise, memorability and exceed expectations. This strategy allows rewards to deliver the desired impact, whether it’s motivating employee performance or increasing customer engagement with a brand.

How do you motivate others to learn and get into the rhythm? Share your strategies in the comments below.


Photograph by J.E. Theriot on Flickr.

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