When people are intrinsically motivated, they enjoy what they are doing more, and find it more interesting. They feel creative, and process information more deeply. Photo/File

When people are intrinsically motivated, they enjoy what they are doing more, and find it more interesting. They feel creative, and process information more deeply. Photo/File

Richard Biwott and Hezbon Kiplagat will probably not ring a bell in your mind. Neither will Kimogoch Secondary school.

Yet this pair of schoolboy athletes from Kenya have become unlikely Internet stars after a video of their school sports day high jump competition hit the Internet. The unbelievable footage was shot at the local school in the town of Mosoriot in the Rift Valley.

But the most amazing thing of all is that the pair clear the bar using the age-old scissors technique, in which athletes clear the bar by leaping up into a sitting position and whipping their legs over it one-by-one, before landing on their feet.

The scissors was used at the first high jump competitions in the 19th century, but was quickly superceded by the western roll and straddle techniques.

As a management consultant, discussions with my clients always revolve around the mystery of talent identification. All over the world, in everything from academics to sports to music, millions of dollars and thousands of hours are being spent on singling out high-potential performers early on. And the plain truth is, most of these programmes are little better than rolling dice.

21st Century business challenges require innovative problem solving approaches. Organisations seeking innovation need to be led by managers who agree with a scientifically-supported notion that most people are driven more by intrinsic motivators than extrinsic ones -typically depicted in the carrot and stick metaphor.

Specifically, the likes of Kiplagat and Biwott have intrinsic motivating elements that should re-define your thinking about management.

Most managers have, on a regular basis, the unenviable task of trying to get other people to adopt particular goals. Companies have agendas, and employees need to support those agendas if the firm is to succeed.

But if you want your employees to live up to their full potential, it’s not enough that they do what you tell them – that they work hard and meet deadlines because you said they have to, and you are watching.  Ideally, you want the members of your team to see that the goals they are pursuing have real value.

The technique that the young men were using requires the jumper to get their head and torso well above the level of the bar. As any physicist will tell you, that’s wasting energy unnecessarily.

Simply put, an athlete using the scissors technique needs to expend more of his or her power and strength to clear the bar than they would need to using the professional method. And since the limiting factor on top athletes is their power and strength, this means you’re not jumping to your full potential.

Yet the sheer natural speed, spring, timing and all-round athleticism demonstrated by the duo suggests that they were not only intrinsically motivated, but that they could be contenders pretty quickly if they are given a chance to train at a venue with proper facilities. Just imagine how good these children could be if they had the chance.

When people are intrinsically motivated, they enjoy what they are doing more, and find it more interesting. They feel more creative, and process information more deeply. They persist more in the face of difficulty. They perform better.  Intrinsic motivation is awesome in its power to get and keep us going.

In the same way, you must take time to reflect on how you might create a greater sense of autonomy in your own workplace. Choice is incredibly motivating – to bring out the best in your employees, harness its power.