Sharath Jeevan is the author of Intrinsic: A Manifesto to Reignite Our Inner Drive and the founder of Intrinsic Labs.
Listen to Tim Logan’s interview on the Future Learning Design Podcast produced in partnership with Intrepid Ed News: Intrinsic Motivation with Sharath Jeevan Future Learning Design Podcast
“What deeply motivates us is not the opposite of what demotivates us.”–Sharath Jeevan
This interview with Jeevan is a combination of personal reflection, synthesis of research, and practical suggestions on intrinsic motivation about his new book, Intrinsic: A Manifesto to Reignite Our Inner Drive. According to Jeevan, the research shows that it isn’t intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation. Instead, extrinsic motivation addresses the basic creature comforts, like a living wage. In fact, extrinsic motivation weakens over time. Intrinsic motivation moves past extrinsic motivation to keep us going.
In the world of education, Jeevan points out, extrinsic motivation is the final exam and grades. He explains that education has been driven by extrinsic motivation through accountability, which shifts teachers and school leaders away from serving the community and nurturing students. Teachers and school leaders, therefore, learn how to game the system, and schools use metrics that are easy to measure instead of asking if this means anything to the young people being measured. Schools, then, should focus on the true purpose of education, which is to survive in this world of unknowns and foster a lifelong love of learning. Everything, Jeevan asserts, should be about the ability to learn how to learn. Students need to be able to communicate ideas, influence others, be motivated through tough times, be intellectually curious, etc.
Even though extrinsic motivation is easier to measure and intrinsic motivation leads us to fuzzy areas that are harder to measure, we live in a fuzzy world. We have to navigate wicked and kind problems, and teaching is an inherently wicked profession: it can’t be reduced to a formula or easy best practices. It is not logistics.
Despite being fuzzy, intrinsic motivation can be developed intentionally. It is similar to the ‘growth mindset’ by Dr. Carol Dweck. Dweck explains that intelligence is malleable. The same is true for motivation. It isn’t about the individual. It’s about the culture around the individual. If we can see that everyone has talent, something unique to offer, and there is space for everyone, we could shift the narrative from scarcity to abundance. Education is not a scarce commodity. It isn’t a zero-sum game. We all improve together.
For intrinsic motivation, everything is deeply interconnected. We need a systems approach that connects the dots within and outside of education to politics and finance, etc., so problems can be approached both upstream and downstream. Teachers, school leaders, and parents can all work together so great things can happen. To make this shift, we need to go in with our eyes open and expect push back on issues like academic rigor. Jeevan ends with the importance of remembering that you can’t always control the outcome but you can always find ways to mitigate the risks.