Upgrading our Assumptions about Human Motivation
The most important business book of 2010 was not about business but about the science of human motivation. I'm talking about Drive by Daniel Pink. Having been the speechwriter for Al Gore and a celebrity speaker at events like TED and Poptech, Pink knows a thing or two about rhetoric. But this book is not fluff. It is a timely assemblage of insights and evidence that solves one of the most frustrating puzzles of modern business: how do we motivate people? The short answer is "You don't." But in closing this door, Pink opens a vast landscape of possibilities. When business upgrades to "Motivation 3.0," the opportunities for aligning individual passion and company productivity explode. For quick access to his argument, you can view his 20-minute TED talk. In it, he explains:
I spent the last couple of years looking at the science of human motivation. Particularly the dynamics of extrinsic motivators and intrinsic motivators. And I'm telling you, it's not even close. If you look at the science, there is a mismatchbetween what science knows and what business does. And what's alarming here is that our business operating system -- think of the set of assumptions and protocols beneath our businesses, how we motivate people, how we apply our human resources -- it's built entirely around these extrinsic motivators, around carrots and sticks. That's actually fine for many kinds of 20th century tasks. But for 21st century tasks, that mechanistic, reward-and-punishment approach doesn't work, and often does harm.
But don't deprive yourself of the full story. Pink's account of how to create the conditions for intrinsic motivation--real, productive human drive coming from inside--are highly instructive and practical. And if you walk away humming "autonomy, mastery, purpose" that is a good thing... because those are the power generators for the next wave of highly successful businesses.