What motivates school staff? A lesson from Google

‘You probably want to do something interesting, let me get out of your way’ (Dan Pink)

Dan Pink’s explanation of what motivates us is fascinating. His conclusion is that extra financial rewards do not work and in fact when completing anything beyond simple mechanical tasks, larger rewards actually lead to poorer performance. What actually motivates us when completing complicated tasks, that require conceptual and creative thinking, is autonomy, mastery and purpose. We want to direct our own lives and make our own decisions, we like to get better at things (which is why we play musical instruments at weekends and write blogs even though it doesn’t necessarily lead to financial rewards) and we want to make a difference that is not just about making a profit.

The most famous example of this is Google’s ’20 percent time’ where engineers are allowed to spend one day a week working on projects that aren’t necessarily in their job descriptions. Google have said that this is where many of their products have actually come to life.

Many blogs and tweets have asked what education can learn from this. Stuart Spendlow in an article for The Guardian explains how the inclusion of this philosophy at his school has led to children who work incredibly hard to solve problems and make themselves proud without the fear of making mistakes. The philosophy led to intrinsically motivated children who organically learnt about a range of topics, including that which they did not initially set out to do.

I have become fascinated about the role of intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, motivation for teachers. It is this intrinsic motivation that actually allows schools to be outstanding. When school staff are empowered and encouraged to identify and solve problems for themselves, formulate their own ideas and, more importantly, implement their suggestions, they gain the levels of autonomy, mastery and purpose that Dan Pink concludes are necessary for their success. This is why Teaching and Learning Communities, Teaching and Learning Groups and Learning Lunches are so important because they allow staff at all levels to deduce solutions and interventions to improve learning and student progress and they empower staff to get on with implementing them.

Which of your ideas will you get on with implementing this week?

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