The effect of encouragement is without doubt researched a lot in the previous decades, but findings from Kao et. al (2016) are focused primarily on exploring the effects of encouragement in education games, which is also the title of their paper. The information they found actually kind of confused me at first. Their research concluded that neutral encouragement is more effective than positive encouragement. To clarify, these results were because testers received random encouragements when playing an educational game, thus also receiving positive feedback when they weren’t doing very well. This had a reversed effect on the testers because the encouragement felt fake. Therefore one should keep in mind to time positive and neutral encouragement according to the user’s input, so the most positive effect is achieved per situation.

On the other hand Pink (2009) says: “Rewards, by their very nature, narrow our focus, concentrate the mind … reward actually narrows our focus and restricts our possibility”, which is really something to think about considering almost all aspects of our daily live consists of rewards. When adding gamification and microinteractions to the mix, it should be recognized that most interactions which implemented gamification and microinteractions are actions which require a narrow focus. They are often very straight forward tasks which consisting of single clicks/taps or swipes. In the case of gamification and microinteractions, rewards do work. But when working on more difficult interactions or larger problem solving, rewards need to be exchanged with the human need to autonomy, mastery and purpose.

“Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives. Mastery: the desire to get better and better at something that matters. Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.” — Daniel H. Pink

Because engagement is something that needs freedom. Pink (2009) said that traditional notions of management are great if you want compliance, which naturally we need to a certain degree in most businesses. But Pink also said that if you want engagement, self-direction works better. It’s that 20% free time at Google, for example, that made the company innovate and come up with a products as Gmail, Google News and AdSense.

“The secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive, the drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things because they matter.” — Daniel H. Pink

Things matter when they get meaning. Things get meaning when there is a connection. A connection between parent and child, creator and product, etc., gets it’s meaning because of the put in effort. That’s why Ariely (2012) said: “… ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of their eyes…But if you understood how important meaning is, then you would figure out that it’s actually important to spend some time, energy and effort in getting people to care more about what they’re doing.”. So Ariely says that spending time, energy and effort in learning and acknowledging what people are doing, and what it means to them, will motivate and encourage them to do even more work and maybe even better work. Because spending time, energy and effort into employees or interns, or whoever is below the ‘boss’ in hierarchical order, will let them know that the ‘boss’ cares and make them feel good about their work according to Ariely.

When Ariely talked about meaning, he pointed out the meaning of absorbance in performance. Furthermore Etcoff (2004) says: “Because when you think about it, people are happiest when in flow, when they’re absorbed in something…”. So Ariely says employees are absorbed in their work (and in flow) when their work is given meaning. When Etcoff’s and Ariely’s research is combined, one can conclude that meaningful work assures happier employees. Happier people tend to be more positive in their thinking and according to Achor (2011) even more productive:

“Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed …Because dopamine, which floods into your system when you’re positive, has two functions. Not only does it make you happier, it turns on all of the learning centers in your brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way.” — Shawn Achor

Concluding can be said that when employees are happy with what they do, they can share and influence their surroundings with it because of what Gutman (2011) & Darwin (1872) stated:

“Because smiling is evolutionarily contagious, and it suppresses the control we usually have on our facial muscles.” — Ron Gutman

“Even the simulation of an emotion tends to arouse it in our minds.” — Charles Darwin

Encouragement in a business thus depends on meaning formed by inputting time, energy and effort, resulting in happier employees with a 31% more productive brain enabling to adapt to the world in a different way.


Pink, D. H. (2009, July). The puzzle of motivation. Ted. Retrieved September 20, 2016, from https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.

Achor, S. (2011, May). The happy secret to better work. Ted. Retrieved September 20, 2016, from https://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work/.

Achor, S. (2011). The happiness advantage: The seven principles of positive psychology that fuel success and performance at work. Random House.

Ariely, D. (2012, October). What makes us feel good about our work?. Ted. Retrieved September 20, 2016, from https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_ariely_what_makes_us_feel_good_about_our_work/.

Etcoff, N. (2004, February). Happiness and its surprises. Ted. Retrieved September 21, 2016, from https://www.ted.com/talks/nancy_etcoff_on_happiness_and_why_we_want_it/.

Gutman, R., (2011, March). The hidden power of smiling. Ted. Retrieved September 21, 2016, from https://www.ted.com/talks/ron_gutman_the_hidden_power_of_smiling.

Darwin, C. R., (1872). The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.