Table of Content:

  1. The Puzzle of Motivation
  2. What makes us feel good about work?
  3. The happy secret to better work

Motivation at work is influenced by different factors and it can be complicated to find motivation at work and to be efficient in the long term.

Do you like your work? Is the atmosphere in the office nice and do you get along with your colleagues? Does your work have a purpose? Do you know which career opportunity you have in your current job?

To help you find motivation at work, we selected 3 TED Talks that will inspire you.


Dan Pink explains in his TED Talks how motivation works and what drives a person to be motivated or not. Does money or reward increase your motivation? Studies show that this is not the main drive.

As explained in our previous article “How to stay motivated at work during the summer“, there are 2 main drives to find motivation at work: extrinsic and intrinsic. Today’s business world is led by extrinsic motivators: rewards, money, bonuses…

If you want people to perform better, you reward them. Right? (…) Incentivise them. That’s how business works.

Dan Pink explains how wrong this business operating system of managing people is, showing results from different behavioural studies like the candle problem.

This study created in 1945 by a psychologist named Karl Duncker shows that for mechanical rules-based work, reward increases performance. But for more complicated work where cognitive skills and creativity are needed, the more reward, the worse results you get.

You’ve got an incentive designed to sharpen thinking and accelerate creativity, and it does just the opposite. It dulls thinking and blocks creativity.

He continues by saying that businesses need to focus no more on extrinsic motivation but on intrinsic motivators. What drives people to work and what motivates them are intrinsic motivators.

There is a mismatch between what science knows, and what businesses do.

With the skills gap and the fact that the demanded soft skills change all the time, he explains that businesses need to stop focusing on extrinsic motivators. There is a need for a whole new approach if businesses want high performance.

We find that financial incentives can result in a negative impact on overall performance.

Dan Pink continues talking about some solutions that scientists presented focusing more on intrinsic motivation. He explains that people are more efficient if they do things because they matter, because they are interested in them, or simply because they like it.

The new operating system has 3 main elements:

  • Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives.
  • Mastery: the desire to get better and better at something that matters.
  • Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

If you want engagement, self-direction works better.

Many big companies, like Google or Microsoft, are focusing on intrinsic motivators giving choice, flexibility, freedom, and purpose to their employees. It led to an increase in productivity, creativity, and engagement.


Dan Ariely talks about what drives us to do what we do. Is it only money at work? Not always! We also do other tasks or exercises outside of work for free, like mountain climbing. There is no material reward involved and most of the climb is difficult. But we still do it and go up again.

We really have this incredibly simplistic view of why people work, and what the labour market looks like.

He explains that what drives us is not only a material reward. There are other reasons why we do things or work. He gives the example of a study he ran with students building Legos.

He shows that, if you give a meaningful condition to the construction of the Lego, students will be willing to keep building more Legos for less money. But the students that had no recognition of the work they did, were building fewer Legos.

The same results happened when asking the student to build the same Legos over and over. Their motivation was lower than the students that were building different Legos all the time.

He also talks about love. The people who loved building Legos were building more than the ones who didn’t like building Legos.

There is a correlation between your performance and the love of your work.

Dan Ariely also shows that if you don’t put any recognition in other’s people work if you shred their effort, their happiness, motivation, and efficiency will be low. This is not only about extrinsic motivators but about recognition.

The bad news is that ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of their eyes. The good news is that by simply looking at something that somebody has done, (…) seems to be sufficient to dramatically improve people’s motivations. 

He also explains that the more effort we put into a work or a task, the higher we will evaluate it. He takes the example of IKEA furniture. They look ok and are hard to build. But once we took the time and effort to build them, we love them even more than before.

By getting people to work harder, they actually got them to love what they’re doing more.

He finishes by saying that in our actual economy of knowledge, efficiency is less important than meaning. Today businesses need to let their employee decide on their own, how much effort, attention and meaning they want to put into their work. Payment is not the only drive anymore, but meaning, creation, and pride… are much more important. And will lead to happier and more efficient people.


In this TED Talk, Shawn Achor talks about positive psychology and how it can help us to get happier and more productive.

He explains that the world is mostly showing us negative things like on the news for example and our brain thinks that this negativity is the accurate ratio of negative to positive in the world.

We are finding that it is not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.

Today we assume, that the external world is predictive of our happiness level. But 90% of our long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way our brain processes the world. And if we can change our formula to happiness and success, then we can change the way reality affects us.

Indeed, 75% of our job success is predicted by our optimism level, our social support and our ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.

We need to reverse the formula for happiness and success.

He continues by saying that today, businesses follow a formula for success. If I work harder, I will be more successful and I will be happier. But instead of giving us long-term happiness, it increases stress and lowers our motivation. Indeed, when we get success, we automatically change our goal to a higher one and so on.

But our brain actually works differently about happiness, what matters is our level of positivity. Our brain works better when having a positive state of mind than under stress or negative or neutral.

If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present, then our brains work even more successfully as we can work harder, faster and more intelligently. 

We simply need to train our brains to be more positive. Shawn Achor finishes the talk by giving us examples of exercises to do to turn our brains into a positive state of mind.

Do you find it complicated to find motivation at work lately? As professionals in recruitment since 2013, LHC International can help you find new challenges and new jobs.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us, we will be pleased to have a chat with you about your projects.

Get in touch.

As professionals in recruitment since 2013, LHC International can help you find the right position or the right candidates for your company.