Our Not So Secret Motivations

In 2005, Dan Pink wrote the bestselling book A Whole New Mind, where he argued why right brainers will rule the future, and strengths like empathy, design, and meaning will be the keys to success. In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Pink unravels another paradigm. In this case he calls attention to the fact that, when it comes to motivation, there is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does.

It’s common knowledge that the best way to motivate people is with external rewards like money, right? Not anymore. Pink found that “the science is a little bit freaky”, as hundreds of experiments tell us that the exact opposite is true. In case after case it is shown that when the task requires conceptual or creative thinking, adding in a financial reward actually leads to poorer performance (for simple tasks money is still a great motivator though). But it’s not that money doesn’t matter at all. Pink says that pay should never be a distraction or reason for complaint, because those cases will certainly affect motivation.

So what is the secret to motivating high performance then? Pink argues that it is the deep human need to direct our own lives (autonomy), to learn and create new things (mastery), and to do better by ourselves and our world (purpose). “We are not as endlessly manipulable and predictable as you would think” he says. And if you want to create those three conditions, it certainly sounds like some more right brain, creative thinking is in order.

If you’re not buying this one bit then blame my sub par summary. Because if you watch all three of these videos then I think you’ll come around. The first video utilizes the incredibly popular RSA Animate style illustration to accompany a Pink speech. The second is a great 2 minute trailer for Drive that asks you to consider two important questions when evaluating your life. And the third is an inspired TED talk about Drive. Sit back and enjoy all three – then tell your boss to do the same.

Two questions that can change your life from Daniel Pink on Vimeo.