Daniel Pink on Human Motivation

Typically we try to limit the biological drive and emphasize the economic drive (reward/punishment).  We need a third drive – purpose – something that matches interest/intrigue. 

Studies show that bigger rewards increase productivity in mechanical tasks but decrease productivity when it requires even the most rudimentary cognitive/complicated/creative tasks.  This was a study funded by the federal bank.  This is a scientific fact, regardless of preconceived solutions about putting out a bigger carrot on the end of the stick as a top motivator for people. 

Two False Assumptions in Organizations That Have Completely Taken Us Off Course

  1. Humans are Machines.  Although complicated, you can find a way to push the right buttons to get them to do what you want them to do.
  2. Human beings are Blobs.  People are passive and inert; not interested in being active and engaged.

True Assumptions We Need to Work With

  1. We cannot make anyone do anything.
  2. Humans are active and engaged by default.  Events can transpire to change our default, but we still want to be active deep down.

Three Key Motivators of Humanity

  1. Autonomy.  Management is a technology of the 1850’s.  Management is a technology designed for compliance.  Today, we don’t want compliance in or organizations.  We want engagement, and therefore we need to have self direction.  Give team members autonomy over time, team, task, and technique.  Go work on whatever you want 20% of the time, but come back and show us the product of your work at the proscribed time.  Pink doesn’t think you can jump into 20% time overnight – do short projects or have some training wheels on it.
  2. Mastery.  People are often motivated by the fact that they made progress.  Even if they don’t like the task, they gain satisfaction that they furthered it.  We need to give people the sense of flow – they made gains today by working.  We often enjoy work more than leisure for this reason – we progressed.  Simplest way to give a sense of progress is to give feedback.  Got to do better than an annual performance review.  Effective teams, regardless of boss approval, are meeting together to set monthly goals and give feedback on the progress.
  3. Purpose.  Profit motive is a good thing, but it is not the only thing – purpose is the greatest motivator.  People want to go beyond their own personal greed.  When people talk about your organization, do you refer to “we” or “they?”  “We” organizations are the productive ones.  People want a small step today that could lead to something better later.
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