Intrinsic or Extrinsic motivation (to comply with an order?)

I look forward to Seth Godin’s microblogs each morning, on business development, marketing and practice.  (see  This morning his post was about “extrinsic motivation,” and how extrinsic motivation was a hallmark of the industrial age of human development.   As we have moved far beyond that age, into the complex and creative interwebs-driven world in which we now live, we rely far less on extrinsic motivation.  He writes, “[i]n fact, the world is more and more aligned in favor of those who find motivation inside, who would do what they do even if it wasn’t their job. As jobs turn into projects, the leaders we need are those that relish the project, that jump at the chance to push themselves harder than any coach ever could.”  See the rest of his post here.

Daniel Pink, author of books Drive and A Whole New Mind, among others, (see, has also written and spoken quite eloquently about intrinsic motivation and how many of our education and business practices, because they are still rooted in industrial age thinking, are doing a disservice to our economy and lives.  He notes that people are not, in fact, truly motivated by the threat of punishment or promise of reward, and that the best innovation and productivity stem from intrinsically motivated activity.  He notes that companies like Google, which offer “20% time,” in which employees may use 20% of their time to explore company-related projects that interest them personally, demonstrate increased efficiency and productivity because of these policies.  To Read Drive or watch this fabulous 10 minute RSAnimate version of Daniel Pink’s TED talk to learn more.

So what does this have to do with conflict, family law or anything else involving Whole Family Law and Mediation?  It’s this: conflict resolution left in the hands of a judge generates a result that is akin to extrinsic motivation – a punishment or reward, depending on which side of the decision you fall.  Conversely, a mediated or collaboratively negotiated settlement relies on intrinsic motivation – the parties’ impulse to create the best possible agreement for all parties.  Indeed, one of the core principles of mediation and interest-based negotiation is the principle of self determination, that is, the parties to the dispute have the right and power to to define the issues, needs and solutions and to determine the outcome of the process. It is the parties, not the mediator or a judge, who have the final say as to the terms of any agreement reached.  This process results, therefore, in a richer, more creative and more lasting outcome than if the decision had been made by a third person.  Moreover, people who create their own agreements are generally more likely to abide by them. [Note: There is much data to support this assertion – see this blog post for numerous links to some excellent research.]



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