Intrinsic Motivation and the Behavior Economy

The search for a new state of being is one of the primary motivators of the economic system, and the reason we originate ideas, which become products or services. According to Erich Fromm,[1] the human brain has two distinct modes, and so does the human personality; the Having mode on one side is concerned with the survival instinct, having plenty for the nourishment of the body, having a roof over your head and so on. The Being Mode on the other side, is concerned with transcending our animal condition, and with creating long-lasting memories of our accomplishments during our time on Earth. In other words, the being mode is concerned with Becoming.

To have, means to have things. And things must have a purpose, and purpose leads to a function or a number of functions, and function leads to our search for better performance in the things we own and use. This performance can be measured, and our Having Mode seeks objective measures for the quantity of things in our life. These objective measures of performance create the motivation for possessing the thing. But this motivation is extrinsic, because we often want things because we desire to be like other people.

Things that belong in the having side of the human brain are perfectly suited for metrics and because of that, they are perfect for management because they could be managed. Management loves the having mode, because one could design

Having and being modes

Figure 2.2 Having and being modes

processes that are understandable, because they produce things and things have a purpose. Every time somebody proposes a new thing, the only question that is asked is what is its purpose? As soon as a reply is given in a manner that satisfies the questioner, we are happy to accept this new thing in our life (Figure 2.2).

  • [1] Fromm, E. (1976). To Have or To Be. New York, NY: Harper Row.
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