Vantage Point

Understanding and measuring what motivates behavior is a central goal for many pharmaceutical market research projects.
Research by psychologists and economists has focused away from carrot-and-stick assumptions about motivation. The findings coming from new models of motivation raise some interesting issues (refer to Daniel Pink's book Drive for a layperson-friendly overview of this body of research). For example:
  • If people enjoy their work, rewards may decrease motivation and reduce out-of-the-box thinking.
  • People are motivated by situations where they feel a sense of purpose—this may outweigh monetary rewards.
  • Companies with policies that allow employees to spend 10-20% of their time doing what they are interested in, relative to their work, see far less turnover and more innovation.
Consider the implications of these findings for market research. First, are we getting the least creative respondents by making the “reward” for research participation totally monetary? While there are clearly legal limits on what can be offered, perhaps we need to revisit the research design itself. Will it motivate at a more intrinsic level if we can tap respondent needs other than through carrot-and-stick?
Second, do we need to create a broader sense of purpose regarding research? If respondents were more engaged, would we get a better breadth of participants, and/or more thoughtful responses? We have found that in patient research where participants feel that their input will help others like them, they proactively go above and beyond the basic requirements.
As motivation models evolve, we will need to consider how this affects our research design.
Donna Kelly is chief consulting officer for GfK HealthCare

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