Surprising Science of Motivation

Daniel Pink, the guy who wrote the book A Whole New Mind suggesting the future will be owned by right-brained people has a video on You Tube. He says, “There’s a huge mismatch between what science knows and what business does.” He goes on to say that how most companies motivate people is outdated, unexamined and rooted more in folklore than data. His primary point is that incentivizing does not work. Paying people people more to solve a problem does not lead to more creativity or to achieving a desired outcome. Although rewards for clear simple ‘mechanical’ problems does work in some cases, it works in a surprisingly narrow band of activities. For tasks that require evne rudimentary cognitive skill, however, a larger reward leads to poorer performance. In the sweeter carrot or sharper stick model people do not perform better on tasks that require innovative thinking. They perform poorly and sometimes produce damaging results. His point is that bigger rewards are good to focus attention, but it is better to have diverse attention in situations that require novel solutions.

Here’s the video link that appears on the TED Network: (cut and paste it)

Bring Notions of Motivation into the 21st Century

Pink says the old Extrinsic model of carrot and stick, reward and punishment methods of motivating are not going to get us out of our current economic difficulties. The new model of Intrinsic Motivation that is supported in actual science suggests that we adopt the idea of motivating people based on doing the right thing because its more interesting, challenging, and meaningful to them.

Pink calls on business to adopt a new business operating system based on three principles; Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. He says management in business is an invented concept that is good for compliance. However, if you want engagement, self-direction works better. Get money off the table as an incentive and let people work on what they want to work on the way they want to work. Pink cites examples of companies who have taken on the concept of Intrinsic Motivation where productivity consistently goes up like Googles 20% work model that allows people to work on any idea you want 20% of your time. People work better when they do things because they matter.

Repair what Pink labels ‘the lazy, dangerous, ideology of carrot and stick motivation to autonomy, mastery and purpose and we can change the world.

Check out the video and say what you think.