Article Details

The Motivation Matchstick Study

What you will get: The truth about motivation.


A candle, some matchsticks and a box full of drawing pins…


And the question is…


How do you light the candle above the table so that no wax drips on the table?


The answer?


Take the drawing pins out of the box, attach the box to the wall and melt the candle at the bottom to stick in the box and then light it.


Easy when you know how!


This famous little puzzle was the first of many that tell us something very important about motivation.


You see…


In the original study, students were offered differing levels of financial reward if they could solve the puzzle in a given time period.


Some were offered no money at all.
Some were offered $5
Some were offered $10
Some were offered $15
Some were offered $20.


And here’s the amazing thing…


Those who were offered no reward performed best.
And those who were offered the highest financial reward performed worst.




For certain types of task, MONEY DOES NOT MOTIVATE people.
In fact the opposite – the higher the financial reward the worse the performance.


Interesting, right?


How many organisations offer their staff material and financial rewards in the false belief that it will motivate their staff to work harder.


Think of the millions of $$$$$$ wasted every year!


And what’s worse…


Once you start the bonus culture, staff very soon begin to expect it year after year.


So here’s the truth about motivation, supported by numerous academic studies similar to the candle puzzle…


Motivation is an inside job!


So it is not external factors that motivate people, it’s internal factors.


It is true that for routine jobs that require no creativity or thinking, money can motivate.


So, for example, let’s say you want someone to move 100 chairs from 1 room to another. If you offer them $25 if they do it in 30 minutes or $50 if they do it in 15 minutes, chances are they will work faster and go all out for the $50 reward.




For any task or problem solving that requires some kind of intellectual ability and thought, the higher the financial reward you offer people, the worse their performance becomes!


So that begs the question…


What does motivate people?


This is a topic I cover in depth in just 1 of the 30 modules of my online leadership programme, the Limbic Performance System.
(What, you haven’t grabbed your access licence yet? Click here right now to find out more)


For now, I will leave you with a simple list of the top 5 motivators which are just GREAT


Growth (the chance to learn and develop)
Responsibility (and autonomy)
Excellence (the chance to become a master at what you do)
Achievement (realistic goals being met)
Thanks (recognition for your efforts)


So it’s simple…


If you really want to turn on internal motivation switches, focus on the 5 elements of the GREAT model.


And save yourself a fortune at the same time!


I’m off to learn something new, decide how I want to do it, become an expert at it, make sure I succeed and get recognised for what I have done!


How about you?


To your success







Steve Neale
“Europe’s Leading Expert on Personal and Professional Growth”


P.S. Great news, my brand new True Success online webinar programme will give you all the tools and guidance you need to make 2016 your most successful year ever. Details to follow soon…


Psychologist, Executive Coach, EI Practitioner, Award Winning Trainer, International Author, Psychodynamic Therapist, Hypnotherapist, Mindfulness Instructor, International Speaker, Creator of the LPS, Creator of the Accredited Masters in High-Performance Leadership

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