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Different Ways We Can Be Motivated by Knowledge

By Daniel Bobinski

Last month I provided an overview of six learned (extrinsic) motivators. By studying these motivators, we develop better self-awareness, which is the starting point for emotional intelligence. Learning about motivators also helps us understand others, which improves our relationship management.

For the next six months, I intend to explore each of the six motivators one by one.

The motivational spectrum of knowledge

First on the list of six motivators is knowledge. Think of it as a scale, or spectrum, about the different ways people are motivated to acquire and use knowledge. At one end of the scale are people we might describe as “instinctive.” These folks prefer relying on past experiences, seeking new knowledge only when it’s needed to accomplish the task at hand.

At the other end of the knowledge scale are people driven to acquire as much knowledge as they can in their pursuit of truth. The word “intellectual” would be a reasonable choice to identify people at this end of the spectrum.

It’s important to remember that people at both ends of the scale value knowledge; they just value it differently. Also, know this is not an “either/or” idea; it’s a scale. If we were to visualize this, we could set “instinctive” people at the left end of the scale, and “intellectuals” at the right. Know that almost everyone has both motivators, but people tend to rely on one more than the other.

The question for improving your self-awareness is which do you prefer more? What about your co-workers? Keep in mind there are no right or wrong motivators here – just differences.

Traits of an instinctively motivated person

People at this end of the scale are often very knowledgeable in specific areas. As such, they are comfortable solving problems by relying on their intuition and previous experiences. They get energized relying on hunches and creating solutions based on what they’ve learned from past successes and failures.

Rather than take deep dives into subjects, people at this end of the scale prefer using search engines or looking for instructional videos on YouTube to get whatever snippet of knowledge they need to move forward with the task in front of them.

Traits of an intellectually motivated person

These folks often conduct research until a subject is exhausted. They want as much information as possible! Often, they aren’t comfortable starting a project until they’ve gathered a broad scope of information on the topic, because they rely on available facts for making decisions rather than intuition.

People on the intellectual side of the scale tend to enjoy seminars and other opportunities to learn. They also enjoy analyzing or clarifying what they’ve learned and finding new ways to systemize it.

Let me conclude by saying the knowledge scale does not indicate how smart a person it. It only identifies the different ways people are driven to learn. A key to success in using this information is to value, not criticize, the differences.

Humans tend to think everyone else can and should learn the same as themselves. When we realize this is not true and we choose to value the differences, we become more effective in our working relationships.

Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed. is a best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. For more than 30 years he’s been working with teams and individuals (1:1 coaching) to help them achieve excellence. He was also teaching Emotional Intelligence since before it was a thing. Reach Daniel through his website,, or his office: (208) 375-7606.



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