I have just finished listening to a recording of W Edwards Deming talking towards the end of his life about the difference between Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation.

Deming talks about how Extrinsic motivation, power, money, position has replaced the intrinsic motivation that we all feel from birth, self esteem, dignity, cooperation, curiosity and a yearning for learning.

At the beginning of our lives this intrinsic motivation is dominant but throughout our lives these qualities are crushed and destroyed by the way we are managed.

Deming talks about how the way to change has to be a transformation to support this intrinsic motivation rather than what he called a patchwork approach.

He said that if you find a fire you have to stamp it out, you can’t let it rage, but once it is out, once the damage has been made good, have you improved?

Or have you simply returned to the old status Quo?

The very simple message that Deming is trying to put across is that to release the power of the human resource we have to release the power that the workforce were born with, ignore the extrinsic motivators, and instead nurture the intrinsic values of the workforce.

To do this we have to transform the way that we do business.

We still have to put out fires but unless we start to address the cause of the fires then we will never progress.


Peter A Hunter

Peter Hunter

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