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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Submitted by sempresere on Tue, 05/04/2022 - 10:19


I am really motivated when I do something that I am interested on, when I work on my passions and interests.
I really love when I can choose what to do and how to do it. Another thing that motivates me is the newness, when I have to do or to learn something new that I am interested on. I noticed that my motivation decreases when I force myself to do something that I don't really want to do. Moreover, my motivation decreases when I don't have time for any other passion. When my work or my study takes all my time I feel really sad and meaningless because I like to invest my time in many passions, not only in one thing.

Submitted by jmajo on Thu, 31/03/2022 - 16:16


Well, although I do some simple tasks at my job and I get some reward to do make them I prefer the kind of tasks that challenge my knowledge and make me research and find or develop a solution not so easy to achieve because it's an incentive itself the act of need to do something that I never did before. So despite it's important to get money in return to make something I prefer not to do simple tasks that could be done by a machine or be automated.
Related to my studies I prefer to study things that solve problems for the real life that would help people to make their life more simple and easy, so they would be able to focus their energy in solve more complex problems.

Thanks for the lesson.
Great site!

Submitted by ninaals on Mon, 21/02/2022 - 15:45


As a student I personally get motivated to learn english only,because I know it will be useful , however, when it comes to school it's the complete opposite. Since public schools in my country are not known for having a good level, when I enter the classroom my partners don't pay attention to the teacher, they start throwing things around and can become very noisy.
Not only that,but since teachers demand higher salaries they can be on strike for several days. Nevertheless, I started self-studying things, at least in my home I can concentrate beeter than in my classroom where no one is even a tiny bit interested in learning.

Submitted by misty on Mon, 10/01/2022 - 01:10


I have felt up and down in every obstacles that I encounter. However, my family motivates me to move on and gives me strength to persevere in life. As the saying goes, "try and try until you succeed."

Submitted by vuhoap on Thu, 06/01/2022 - 14:06


In my job, I am motivated by recognition. I try to work well and seriously every day. I get difficult tasks to challenge myself and try to finish in time. I want to prove that I am going to do well at what I am doing.

Submitted by ceehinh on Tue, 14/12/2021 - 11:33


I'm currently a junior student at a university. actually, I think the most important thing in my study motivation is that I want to enrich my knowledge, widen my horizons, become more well-rounded. to be more precise, only when I attain it I can see myself finding out a good job with a high salary to make and earn for my life.

Submitted by danielbacelar on Mon, 25/10/2021 - 21:51


In my work, I am motivated by challenge and autonomy to perform my job.

Submitted by 46adrian46 on Wed, 20/10/2021 - 11:33


In my case my main motivation is the challenges, for example develop a new brand or enter in company that is trying to open new markets in others countries.

Submitted by RuthYong on Thu, 14/10/2021 - 04:56


I'd like to share what keeps me motivated is my determination to study and work. Currently, I am studying and working at the same time. I really need a lot of positive energy.On another note to British Council team, the PDF files are not designed for the visually impaired users who use screen reader program. It is difficult for the program to read the table with so many columns and rows. Please look into this matter. Overall, the lessons are great.

Hello RuthYong,

Thanks for your comment. I'm very sorry that you find the PDFs difficult to use with screen readers. We took screen readers into account when we created the PDFs, but if you find them difficult to use we clearly need to do better.

Thanks very much for letting us know!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team