A talk about motivation

A talk about motivation

Listen to the talk about motivation to practise and improve your listening skills.

Do the preparation task first. Then listen to the audio and do the exercises.



So, we think we know how to motivate people, right? Offer them a reward. Do this and you'll get this. Do this faster, earn more money. Do this better than everyone else, here's a promotion. We offer incentives when we want people to do things. We do it at work, at school, even at home with our kids. Tidy your room and you can watch TV.

But when social psychologists test whether incentives work, they get surprising results. Sam Glucksberg, from Princeton University, America, set people a problem to solve and told them he was going to time them to see how long they took. Then he put them in two groups. He offered one group a reward for finishing fast. Five dollars for anyone finishing in the top 25 per cent and 20 dollars for the person who finished the fastest of all. To the other group he offered no incentive, but he told them he was going to use their times to calculate an average time.

The first group, the ones with the reward, solved the problem faster, you'd think, right? Well, no, they actually took three and a half minutes longer than the group who just thought they were being timed. Incentive didn't work. In fact, it made them slower. This experiment has been repeated, with the same results, many times. But in business we still offer bonuses, promotions and rewards to staff.

That's fine if we want them to do something simple, like chop wood. We'll pay you more if you chop the wood faster. An incentive works then. But if we want someone to do something complex, something creative, something where they have to think, rewards don't work. They might even have the opposite result, and make people perform worse. Another study, by Dan Ariely, showed that the bigger the reward, the worse the subjects performed on a complex task. The reward made them focus so hard on the result that they couldn't think creatively any more.

And this all matters because more and more simple jobs will become automated. We'll be left with creative, problem-solving jobs that computers will never do. And we need to find a way to motivate people to do those jobs when we've proved the traditional incentives don't work.

So what does work? Giving your workers freedom; freedom to work on the things they want to work on, freedom to choose when, where and how they work. Want to work from home three days a week, get up late and work into the night instead? Fine. Just do the job well. And evidence shows people who choose the way they work get results. Companies that give employees time during the week to work on things that interest them and are not part of their regular job achieve amazing things. Some of the big tech companies are good examples of this, with ping-pong tables and areas to relax in …

Task 1

Task 2


Worksheet81.46 KB

Language level

Average: 4.4 (92 votes)

Submitted by nabily on Fri, 10/07/2020 - 14:34

Hi I have finished the intermediate level and it was easy for me . Now , in this level i could get only 5 out 8 correct. I understand most of what the conversation but when it come to answer the exercises i found it a little bit difficult. Any advice and recommendations
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Fri, 10/07/2020 - 15:08

In reply to by nabily


Hello nabily

I wouldn't worry -- some things within B2 are closer to B1 and some are closer to C1. The main thing is to keep working and to learn from your mistakes. In this way, you will advance for sure!

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by wahbi baklouti on Thu, 09/07/2020 - 19:17

what motivated me, in general, is to remember the goal I set it. when I give up and start to procrastinate I remember the goal that gives me the energy to keep going and work whatever happens

Submitted by Hai994 on Sat, 13/06/2020 - 02:39

Improving my self is the most important motive for me because in this life we always facing difficulties and I need to prepare my self for it.

Submitted by nona nasr on Thu, 11/06/2020 - 00:06

Actually my goals motivate me in most cases , when I want to reach specific achievements like learning English to have a good job ,I work hard without any incentive from anyone , I can get motivated also when I’m interested in what I’m doing and also I’m agree to that having enough time to get tasks done without stress makes me more creative, good and especial results makes me proud regardless any incentive

Submitted by Wen_Koala on Sat, 30/05/2020 - 01:09

What I like the most is to be included into complex projects where I can get some new and fresh ideas or where I can develop my management skills. If I have the chance to select the members of my team and organise the schedules when we are going to be connected, I will be absolutely engaged.

Submitted by Rahaf altal on Fri, 29/05/2020 - 00:28

In my opinion, I say that motivation is important for the person to receive the result after a great effort he did in his work. On the other hand, the person must be open to himself and work diligently in order to relax mentally.

Submitted by Ahmadbassam on Thu, 21/05/2020 - 14:06

It depends. For the current job , the incentives work. If it is related to my future, just the ambition motivates me.

Submitted by joelharrris on Tue, 19/05/2020 - 01:19

it is often deplorable when you have to work twice as much as the others to be up to the task but it should not weaken us

Submitted by ragamin on Sun, 17/05/2020 - 14:43

is it a real speech ???if so , how can i get the full version ??? any help is appreciated