Small But Visible Rewards Can Motivate Team Members

Remember when all you needed for motivation was a sticker next to your marker-printed name, or maybe a notch on the chalkboard? It’s a principle still in play in adult motivation, as proven by the Ohio State Buckeyes, and grown men competing fiercely for a coffee mug.

The inherent value of a reward doesn’t have to be much at all, researchers at George Mason University suggest in a recent paper, but a reward that other team members can see has its own kind of value. It’s not an easy experiment to sum up, but in short, a kind of communal money-piling game was played with four players on each team. The “winner” of each round was given either an ice cream sandwich, which had to be eaten before returning to the team, or a unique coffee mug was given to a team member to bring back to their team table.

The researchers found that when the mug was the prize, the men in the group – but not the women – fought harder to win, so they more readily threw in all their cash during the game, vying for the highest possible ratings from their teammates. And when competing for the mug, the males cooperated more with each other, instead of plotting and scheming against the rest of the group.

Regardless of the gender skewing, it’s intriguing to see how much a token reward impacts team effort. Not to say that “20 Pieces of Flair” doesn’t become a bit ridiculous at some point, but occasionally introducing public-facing rewards might help motivate your next group effort.

Photo by KOMUnews

The Science Behind College-Football Helmet Stickers [Playbook/Wired via BoingBoing]

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.

At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


Leave a Reply