I'm trying to work out how to get my team to understand that different people in the team get different things out of work (excluding the financial drivers).

I want to explain this in terms of intrinsic motivators. I'm trying to get a definitive list. I think they are:

  • Challenge - We are best motivated when we are working toward personally meaningful goals whose attainment requires activity at a continuously optimal (intermediate) level of difficulty.
  • Curiosity - Something in the physical environment attracts our attention or there is a discrepancy between present knowledge or skills and what these could be if we engaged in some activity.
  • Environment Influence - We have a basic tendency to want to control what happens to us.
  • Scenario-planning - We use mental images of things and situations that are not actually present to stimulate our behavior.
  • Competition - We feel satisfaction by comparing our performance favorably to that of others.
  • Cooperation - We feel satisfaction by helping others achieve our goals.
  • Recognition - We feel satisfaction when others recognize and appreciate our accomplishments.

But there doesn't appear to be a final word on this:

My question is: Is there a definitive list of intrinsic motivators?


While I wouldn't and cannot claim anything conclusive about intrinsic motivation, as far as I know, Self-Determination Theory (SDT, see below) is quite accredited. In short, at its core it postulates that humans are motivated by three innate psychological needs: Autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

Moreover, I believe that the motivating factors listed in the question can be reduced to the three needs postulated by SDT.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68–78. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.68

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SDT is oft-cited in academia but as a theory has somewhat isolated itself from our ‘less positive’ intrinsic needs. For example, we have intrinsic status needs; as well as fairness needs (which include with it punishing transgressors - ‘costly punishment’); and relatedness needs (which include ‘negative’ behaviours such as forming outgroups from our intrinsic social categories).

These social needs are included in David Rock’s SCARF model, referenced from his book below:

Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long - 2009

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