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Lawrence and Nohria's Employee Motivation


Explanations > Needs > Lawrence and Nohria's Employee Motivation

Acquiring | Bonding | Comprehending | Defending |  So what?


Lawrence and Nohria (2002) offer a model of key human drivers that gives another lens onto what motivates us and leads to group cultures and processes. In particular it shows the deeper forces that act in the way of needs and which are derived from an evolutionary perspective on how people in organizations behave. The model is named to help memory with an 'ABCD' initial lettering.


We are an acquisitive species, a force that drives and is driven by capitalist markets. Possession not only helps us gain the esteem of others and consequent status, it also builds our sense of identity. Our desire to own things is increased when they are rare or scarce, perhaps as these offer higher status when they are desirable and others are not able to also own them.


We have a need to connect with others that leads to long=term interpersonal bonds and satisfying relationships This includes finding friends and a mate. It also helps provide us with support in times of need, typically through a long process of exchange where we build up social credit by helping others and conforming to social values, and so receive due help in return. In doing so we build a sense of belonging and an identity that is driven by groups and relationships as much as individual characteristics or actions.


Success in evolution requires that we understand the world around us so we can consequently predict what will happen and consequently plan to avoid threats and take advantage of opportunities. This drive to understand can be seen in our curiosity and avoidance of boredom. We are, in many ways, 'learning machines' who get a very pleasant 'buzz' or 'aha' experience when we realize new understanding.


For basic safety and survival, we must be able to not only detect threats but also defend ourselves and protect those we care about. Socially, this brings in a concern for fairness and, where fairness is not found, that justice is done.

So what?

This model applies well to everyday life, even though its main target is in shaping work in organizations to motivate and guide the people who work there. It also is a fairly capitalistic view, and hence may be used to understand and motivate customers as well as employees. In any case, the greatest value is in using this as a lens to understand the current motivation of people and how this may be changed and improved.

See also


Lawrence, P.R. and Nohria, N. (2002). Driven: How Human Nature Shapes our Choices, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Nohria, N., Groysberg, B. and Lee, L. (2008). Employee Motivation: A Powerful New Model, Harvard Business Review, 86, 7-8, 78-84


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