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 …

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Task 2


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Profile picture for user Hennadii

Submitted by Hennadii on Thu, 03/09/2020 - 13:24

I think there are many kinds of motivation. Some of them are material but some are not. You can be motivated by bonus (extra money to your salary at the end of the project if the thing will go well) or promotion (once again we're talking about money - the bigger salary). But, you can be motivated not only by money but by fame or respect as well. It's good to know you're the best employee in your company or to see your photo on the honour board. Of course, money is money and everybody wants to earn more but it's only one side. People also want to leave a mark in history, to be respected and recognized. It's a good motivation in many fields (sports, culture, science). Definitely, money plus fame is the best combination ever but sometimes we have to make an important choice between bread and glory. And bread doesn't always win, you know. So, I totally agree with the main idea of this topic - money and promotion aren't the only way to motivate people nowadays. And many different kinds of research prove that statement.

Submitted by Ramazan Altınışık on Wed, 02/09/2020 - 15:39

My motivation goes up when I achieve my goals especially when I success in an exam then I am so motivated to study.

Submitted by macevedosalas on Wed, 26/08/2020 - 16:03

I guess the most important idea related with the motivation is to love what you do... if you like your job you will do an excellent job , to give people rewards is not necessary for achieving goals in the company.
Profile picture for user Gelashvili Nika

Submitted by Gelashvili Nika on Tue, 25/08/2020 - 14:37

Hi everyone Well, my biggest motivation is self-development. In this case I learn English myself to become magistrate at exact and natural science. I am Geographer and my dream is to work in National Geographic as a saints, write interesting article about nature, environment people, culture and tradition and help using my job whole world. All those lessens helps me moving forward to my dream and I would like to say thanks all Learn English team for support.

Submitted by fahri on Wed, 05/08/2020 - 12:06

Dear team. From the lesson above. he offered no incentive, but he told them he was going to use their times to calculate an average time. What's that mean 'use their times to calculate an average time' ??? Is that mean they free to go or not to go to the office for work? The most important thing is the job finished?? Thank you very much for your answer and attention.

Hello fahri,

The people were timed (entry 2.2: to measure how long it takes someone to do something) as they solved a problem. The resulting numbers were the people's 'times'. If you have several numbers, you can add them all together and then divide by the number of numbers ('to average') to get the average (entry 2.2).

The people who did this did not win anything ('no incentive').

Hope this helps.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by kbravoz on Wed, 22/07/2020 - 14:29

One of the easiest listenings I've had. But about the question, unfortunately due to the easy access to information people tend to read just headlines and not the whole idea as well as following instructions. Doing things quickly and fast is a goal that doesn't need to be rewarded, depends on us.

Submitted by Ping Wen on Wed, 22/07/2020 - 10:03

When I'm interested in this task, I will be motivated automatically.

Submitted by nabily on Fri, 10/07/2020 - 14:56

What motivate me is that when i got what i planned for done successfully. in that case it give me motivation to achieve something new.