Are our key motivators still Shelter, Food, Money and Sex?

I have recently be re-reading a book by Dan Pink on Motivation called Drive 

In this book he examines the ‘revolutionary’ concept that perhaps Money is not the most powerful or effective motivator for us, in a modern creative working environment.

This thinking started around 30 years ago when MIT ran an experiment showing how incentivizing students with money to solve puzzles - needing Cognitive thinking rather than practical piecemeal work practice - actually made them less interested in working on them after being paid. Meanwhile, another group of students who had not been offered money, worked on the puzzles longer and with more interest. This research uncovered the powerful and significant difference between extrinsic motivation, the kind that comes from outside sources, and intrinsic motivation, the kind that comes from within yourself, your personal DRIVE.

The rapid development of open source software and IT technology, developed by technology ‘wizards’ for free to share is an example of this - Wikipedia probably most widely recognized

Reward and punishment work with mechanical tasks, but something different is required where cognitive or thinking skills are needed.

Daniel Pink, in his book, Drive, lists three elements of the motivation formula: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. In situations where people are paid fairly (As being underpaid is a de-motivator) , this threesome drives, engages, and motivates us to do our best creative work.


Autonomy - Self-direction, freedom and engagement

 Our self-direction is a natural inclination. Pink points to the simple example of how children play and explore all on their own. We all have inner drive. Researchers discovered in a study of workers at an bank that managers who offered “autonomy support” — which means helping employees make progress by giving meaningful feedback, choice over how to do things, and encouragement — resulted in higher job satisfaction and better job performance.

To encourage real creativity and freedom to try, explore and progress we need autonomy from control and constraints. By giving people real control over various aspects of their work — whether it’s deciding what to work on or when to do it – we encourage productivity  

Mastery - Challenge, mastery, Progress and the urge to contribute

Why is it that we want to learn to play the Violin? It is difficult, complex and frustrating, but we do it.

We want to get better at doing things. It is why learning a language or an instrument can be so annoying at first. If you feel like you are not getting anywhere, your interest drops and you may even give up. A sense of progress, not just in our work, but our capabilities, contributes to our inner drive.

So, Pink concludes that we should work on ‘Goldilocks tasks’, which are neither too difficult nor too easy. The trick is not to give tasks fitting a person’s exact capabilities, but to give them space and support to reach a little higher to improve, continual mastery, and growth. To challenge themselves.

This also means the work culture is really important.  Are we allowed to make mistakes? We need to be able to get things wrong, to allow for us to adapt, evolve and improve.

What this requires of employers is paying more attention to how employees are doing and feeling about their tasks.

Purpose - Part of something larger than ourselves , be part of a community

Why is it that people join clubs or attend conferences. People want to be part of something greater than themselves, they want to learn, enhance their knowledge and skills. People who find purpose in their work unlock the highest level in the motivation game. Pink says that it is connecting to a cause larger than yourself that drives the deepest motivation. Purpose is what gets you out of bed in the morning and into work without groaning and grumbling.

That also means people who have purpose are motivated to pursue the most difficult problems.

According to Pink, the old-school model of carrots and sticks is becoming increasingly outdated, and according to lots of research, just plain wrong. It makes sense that old-school organizational and personal frameworks of productivity just don’t cut it in this age when knowledge work, creativity, and problem-solving are required to stand out and succeed.

So I recommend building a business and work culture that is based on more autonomy, mastery, and purpose to produce not just a more productive and effective workforce, but a happier one! -