I’ve just read this book, Drive | Daniel Pink. And it’s challenged everything I’ve ever done as a sales manager, and questioned everything I thought I knew! Seriously.
Interestingly, it also gave voice to a whole load of stuff I felt was the case, but have never been able to put into words. I’m going to try to lay out the basic argument but check out the video, and definitely read the book! I cannot recommend them highly enough.
The basic premise of the book is that science has an understanding of motivation that business appears to ignore. And as soon as you start to read this book (or watch the video) you’ll start to see the point. Business starts from the perspective that people do not WANT to work and require what Dan Pink calls external motivators, contingent motivators, to get results. Let’s take Dan’s suggestion and call them ‘carrot and stick’ motivators.
Behavioural scientists on the other hand, know that people’s optimum motivators are intrinsic. And not in the slightest bit contingent on ‘carrots or sticks’. There are exceptions. The motivation required to perform some simple analogous tasks is very effectively achieved with rewards achieved through performance. But complex tasks, requiring some level of creativity are DIRECTLY UNDERMINED by motivating using ‘carrots or sticks’.
Dan Pink starts the argument off brilliantly with the example of the candle problem featured in the video. Performance of this task, requiring some simple lateral thinking, was reduced when the people attempting the task were ‘rewarded’ for getting the solution in the fastest time. In fact, on average, Dan says the task took three and half minutes longer when the reward was on offer! He goes on to build the case that when the tunnel vision, or super focus that reward and incentive provides us is used to drive performance in tasks requiring a creative ability to solve, the effect is the opposite of what we would hope to achieve.
He builds the case that people are motivated by the following three things far more strongly than any carrot and stick can provide. With one additional caveat, that is, money has to be ‘off the table’. As long as the people in your teams don’t have to worry about what they are paid in terms of others within the organisation and outside working with your competitors.
- Autonomy. Autonomy over Task (the job you do), Technique (the way you do it) Team (the people you do it with) and Time (when you do it)
- Mastery. Getting into the flow. Working at the optimum level, like the stories of when athletes are ‘in the zone’. Teams are neither too stretched or stretched enough. so-called ‘Goldilocks’ tasks. And getting ‘better’ is reward in itself.
- Purpose. People like to be part of something bigger. It needn’t be a charity, thought it clearly can be, it just needs to add value to one’s experience. There needs to be a reason for what we do, and building up something bigger and better is a tremendous motivator.