I ran across a striking example of intrinsic motivation. Apparently the Russian scientist Grigory Perelman has rejected a million dollar prize for solving a tough mathematical problem.
The problem is called the Poincare Conjecture and it was one of the really hard mathematical problems that the Clay Mathematics Institute of Massachusetts had identified for one of its Millennium Prizes of $1 million dollars.
Perelman had previously been selected for the Fields Medal which is often called the Nobel Prize for mathematics, but did not show up to collect his medal. Not only is he not interested in the money but apparently he is not interested in being recognized for his solution either.
The concept of Intrinsic Motivation reflects the desire to do something simply because it is an enjoyable activity. If we are intrinsically motivated, we are not concerned with external rewards such as recognition or compensation.
Granted the mathematician’s behavior appears extreme, but as we discuss compensation issues and theories, we need to be aware of the presence of this behavior. It can be expected that people’s behavior would be varying mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Sales Compensation programs are well advised to be aware of this fact.