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Posted: May 29, 2013

One easy way to increase motivation 500 percent

Here's the secret

TC North

A 500 percent increase in motivation might be easier than you think. According to a famous experiment in which researchers ran a lottery with an interesting twist, you can boost motivation at least 500 percent with one easy process.

Here’s the experiment. Half of the participants were randomly assigned a lottery number, and the other half were given a blank piece of paper and asked to write down any number they choose as their lottery number. Each lottery number had an equal chance of being drawn as the winner.

Just prior to drawing the winning number, the researchers offered to buy back the lottery tickets. Here is what they found: Regardless of the location or demographic in which the experiment took place, they always found that they had to pay at least five times more money to those who wrote their own lottery number than to those who were given a lottery number. In other words, those who wrote their number were at least 500 percent more committed to their number than those who were given a number by someone else.

Statistically, the number they wrote had no more likelihood of being the lottery number chosen than a number on a ticket given to them; but they valued the ticket with the number they wrote five times more than a lottery ticket with a number given to them!

This study demonstrates an important principle for leading, managing and selling: When we choose for ourselves, we are 500 percent more committed to the outcome.

Former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano led the company's turnaround, which included a change effort to move IBM toward a values-based management system. During a three-day online interaction, Palmisano empowered more than 50,000 employees to rewrite IBM’s century-old values. The change effort was enormously successful.

The best for-profit and nonprofit organizations I’ve worked with had leaders who involved the whole team in the development of their vision, mission, strategic plan and values. The leadership teams for both organizations drafted the mission, vision and strategic plan then worked with all employees to revise and refine them. Each team/department defined all of their actions to accomplish their major goals. Neither of these high-performing leadership teams drafted the values, though; like Sam Palmisano at IBM, they worked together as a whole organization to define their organizational values.

This piece of high-performance psychology is pretty simple, When people make their own decisions, they are more motivated and committed to everything connected with the decision.

Because you are reading this, you’re probably in business. And on a personal level you may have a significant other, and some of you have children. How do you interpret this research finding? How can you apply this finding? How might you increase motivation in the important people in your life?

Notice that I am asking you questions so that you can come up with your own answers rather than me providing you answers. Thought I’d practice this 500 percent motivation principle.

Dr. TC North is co-author of the Amazon bestseller Fearless Leaders. For 28 years, he has been a high-performance executive coach and speaker who helps individuals and organizations identify and attain their visions and dreams. He also has coached professional and Olympic athletes in the art of creating thoughts and emotions that maximize success. He’s a professional speaker on “Fearless Leaders” and “Master Fear.” Dr. North’s work has been featured on TV and radio and in business and scientific journals. Learn more at Contact Dr. North at 303-665-8920 or, or connect on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.





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Readers Respond

Liz, you're welcome. Thanks for your comment. Yes, motivation is "an inside job". The research also reminds us that as leaders we need to understand how to create the external environment that optimizes motivation and passion for those we lead and those we affect. By TC North on 2013 05 30
Gary, you are so right. As leaders, we all need to understand how to create the environment/culture to bring forth each person's motivation. The culture is like the soil you plant your garden in. Will it support a plant to optimally grow? And, you need a plant that "wants" to grow. By TC North on 2013 05 30
Debbie, your firm, Associates III (AIII ) has one of the most motivating and empowering organizational cultures I am aware of. It's been about 20 years now since I started working with you all. Not only does it have the best culture it's one of the best run service firm I know. Your leadership team has always exhibited the Fearless Leaders™ traits: inspiring courage, resilience, mindfulness and passion - and it runs through everyone in your company! It even affects your consultant/coach when he works with you. Thanks for that! By TC North on 2013 05 30
Hi TC, As usual....another great article. Motivation is an inside job. Thanks for sharing your expertise. Liz By liz wendling on 2013 05 30
TC, this supports what I have always said as a tranier, coach and professional speaker that, "you can't motivate people that are not willing to be motivated. It has to come within them first." By gary harvey on 2013 05 29
In support of TC - our firm embraces this philosophy where the the whole team is involved n the development of the vision, mission, strategic plan and values. Everyone takes on the mantle of ownership and buys into something they've helped craft. Our company culture thrives because of it. By Debbie on 2013 05 29
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