I’ve noticed that the commercials in the gaming app on my phone are all boasting that the game they are advertising is “harder than it looks.” There are many variations on this theme: “I’ve tried 3333 times and still can’t get it” or “You won’t be able to do this,” as if the temptation is enough for me to want to prove them wrong.

That brand of motivation may work on the competitive spirits, but it turns me off. Why would I want to spend my time on a trivial task that you are telling me up-front is nearly impossible? No thanks. I would be much more inspired to try something that made a difference or that provided a few moments of mindless bliss or could improve my cognitive functioning, etc.

With games, as with everything else, you’ll be much more successful if you understand the different motivations that your people bring to the table. Who is fueled by recognition? Which person needs competition? Who will thrive on a challenge? When do meaning and purpose become the motivators?

Invest the time to know what drives those with whom you work closely – employees, colleagues, partners, vendors or other collaborators. It’s more than ascertaining whether to use the carrot or the stick; it’s refining your message and your incentives to align with deeply personal values to inspire internal motivation as well.

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