Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mr. Pink and Motivation 3.0

Daniel Pink has been popping up everywhere around me, not only during a recent management class, but also in casual conversation with a friend who's a corporate trainer and who gave me his book "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us".  In Drive, Pink explores the underpinnings of human motivation challenging years of economic theory with scores of behavioral studies showing that, once that salary needs are met, people are intrinsically driven to perform. Unless the task is menial, repetitive or unpleasant, money bonuses only go so far, and in the case of complex intellectual tasks monetary rewards can actually hinder performance by focusing individuals too narrowly instead of allowing them to explore solutions to the problem at hand.

Image by Nevit Dilmen
To foster workplace happiness and engagement, Pink proposes a new motivation paradigm he calls Motivation 3.0 based on three principles: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. The best results as far as creativity goes, he argues, are obtained when employees are self-motivated and are allowed to express themselves. Autonomy: people want to feel in control of their lives and of how they do their job, they want to be "players, not pawns". Mastery: we pay to solve the New York Times crossword puzzles, not the other way around, because it's human nature to want to be really good at something and to keep trying to achieve our goals. And finally Purpose brings it all together and trumps money any day of the week: if we have a greater ideal to aspire to, we'll work harder and longer.

It all made perfect sense to me, since Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose are the main drivers of any scientist. Nobody dictates our hours, yet we spend innumerable long days in the lab and think about work in the shower. We love our jobs because we're self-directed, because we want to be experts in our fields and because in one way or another we are working towards a greater good for humanity.

Yet sometimes is hard to communicate our drive to those working for us and this is where "Drive" provides some excellent guidelines on how to develop intrinsic motivation in others by fostering Autonomy, promoting Mastery and clearly communicating our Purpose. For an excellent summary of Pink's ideas watch the RSA video below:

More to follow on my attempts to drink the Pink Cool-Aid and start a fully engaged, innovative and driven lab.

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