Daniel Pink, author of the recently released Drive, talks with us about what motivates people to excel in the workplace today.
Whether you're trying to motivate those around you to perform better, or you're ready to take your own game to the next level, Daniel Pink offers insight and solutions.
The premise of Drive is that what motivated us in the 20th century is no longer what motivates us today. What does motivate us today, and why is it different from what it was?
In the 20th century most organizations built their motivational systems arounds rewards and punishments -- carrots and sticks. That worked fine for a time. These "if-then" motivators -- If you do this, then you get that -- can be quite effective for simple, routine, rule-based work, whether turning a screw on an assembly line or tabulating rows of figures in an office. Trouble is, fewer and fewer of us are doing these sorts of tasks. Instead we're doing work that is non-routine, creative, and conceptual. And there's 40 years of science that shows that for creative tasks, these sorts of motivators rarely work and often do harm. The better approach today is to build our motivational systems around autonomy (the urge to direct our own lives), mastery (the desire to get better at something that matters), and purpose (the yearning to connect to something larger than ourselves.)
Do all generations -- Baby Boomers just as much as Millennials -- demonstrate this shift in what motivates them?
Yes. Some of what we see above the surface -- Boomers chosing "encore careers," Millennials clamoring for work-life balance and constant feedback -- grow from common roots, from some basic intrinsic motivations. For instance, as Boomers age, they steer their lives a bit more toward purpose. Since this is the largest generation in history, the effects could be gargantuan. Millennials, meanwhile, have always been somewhat purpose-driven, but they pursue it in a more freewheeling way. They also often have more opportunities to act on their intrinsic motivations than their parents did.
Do you find that women are particularly driven by this new quest for autonomy, mastery and purpose?
I think these are motivations that transcend gender, but women tend to be ahead of the curve. They're more likely to recognize and talk about these drives -- and then act on them.
Do you have any advice for those in The Women's Conference community whose employers still operate by the carrot and stick approach?
It's tough, but try to carve out some room for a new approach. For instance, look for ways to sculpt your job so you have more control over your time, task, team, and technique. Pay attention to how often you're in "flow' at work -- when the challenge is so exquisitely matched to your capabilities that time seems to dissolve. Ask yourself whether there's a larger purpose in your day-to-day activities. That can help. But sometimes situations are so retrograde that the best option is simply to leave. Once companies realize they're losing so much talent -- especially women -- they might begin to change.
Are there leadership, management or coping implications that are especially relevant to women as they navigate their lives and careers?
Yes. Women can be at the vanguard of a broad and powerful transformation in how we run our organizations. It's pretty simple, really. We can stop treating people like horses and start treating them like human beings. Instead of trying to bribe folks with sweeter carrots or threaten them with sharpen sticks, how about giving them greater freedom at work, allowing them to get better at something they love, and infusing the workplace with a sense of purpose? If we tap those intrinsic drives more fully, we can remake our businesses and maybe even transform our world.
Daniel H. Pink is the author of four provocative books about the changing world of work — including the New York Times bestsellers, A Whole New Mind and Drive, which together have been translated into 27 languages. He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife and their three children. Learn more at www.danpink.com