Business books are a dime a dozen, but every once in awhile, I come across one that gets me thinking, stays with me and makes me want to share. That’s how I felt after listening to Daniel H. Pink’s “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”.
Part science and management theory, part down-to-earth management strategies, Pink’s premise is based on four decades of solid scientific research on human motivation. The book is full of businesses across the country who are putting this motivation theory to work with great results.
The 20th Century Motivation Model
The practice of scientific management was born in the early 1900s. At that time, most work consisted of simple, uninteresting tasks, and the only viable method to motivate people to do them was to incentivize them properly and monitor them closely. This is the carrot-and-stick approach. Reward the behavior you want and punish the behavior you don’t want.
We still use this in our daily lives all the time. How do we encourage our children to study or do their chores? We reward them with money. What do we do when they don’t do what we want? Take away their computer privileges, their cell phones, etc. In the business world, we still use this model to reward and punish employees. Bonuses for a job well done. A bad performance review for poor performance.
Scientists studying the behavior of other mammals began to find that the traditional carrot-and-stick approach no longer always explained behavior. And “The Third Drive” in motivation theory was born.
The Third Drive
The Third Drive is intrinsic motivation: we are driven to accomplish things because the task is gratifying or even enjoyable: doing the task is its own reward.
Jobs in the 21st century have changed dramatically. They have become more complex, more interesting and more self-directed. Is it any wonder the carrot-and-stick approach no longer applies? In fact, Pink notes that using it can actually encourage behavior we DON’T want, including diminished motivation, lower performance, less creativity and even unethical behavior.
Applying It To Your Business
So, how do we apply this knowledge of motivation to our businesses? Pink proposes that businesses adopt a revised approach to motivation which fits more closely with modern jobs, one based on self-determination theory (SDT). SDT proposes that human beings have an innate drive to be autonomous, self-determined and connected to one another, and that when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.
Organizations should focus on these drives when managing their human capital by creating settings which focus on our innate need to direct our own lives (autonomy), to learn and create new things (mastery) and to do better by ourselves and our world (purpose).
The book is full of wonderful real world examples. Here are a few initiatives Pink mentions:
- Autonomy – provide employees with autonomy over some or all of the four main aspects of work: When they do it (time); How they do it (technique); Whom they do it with (team); and What they do (task). The book has several examples of businesses that have become ROWEs (results-only work environments), focusing on the output, not on any set schedule to get the results. Goodbye to the 9-to-5 workday.
- Mastery – allow employees to become better at something that matters to them. Pink uses the term “Goldilocks tasks.” These are not overly difficult nor overly simple, but they allow employees to extend themselves and develop their skills.
- Purpose – take steps to fulfill employees’ natural desire to contribute to a cause greater than. More and more businesses are now placing more emphasis on purpose maximization and not just profit maximization. Research shows that the attainment of profit goals has no impact on a person’s well-being and can actually contribute to their ill-being!
The notion of increasing employee satisfaction through the intrinsic motivational methods of autonomy, mastery and purpose has obvious implications for compensation plans and incentive programs. If you’re looking for more ideas on how to motivate your 21st century workforce, I recommend you check out this quick read.