Driven to reinvent: a new way to think about motivation

by Magdalena Rzeznik, writing from the Center for Innovatics at Nowy Sacz Business School – National-Louis University, Poland

I am driven to share with you my enthusiasm for the book entitled “Drive. The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Daniel H. Pink. It is a really aprovocative and persuasive book and I believe it is a “must-read” for every manager, teacher and parent. Its author writes regularly for The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company and Wired. He has published five books, including bestsellers that have been translated into 34 languages. In 2013, Thinkers 50 named him one of the top 15 business thinkers in the world.

The author reveals the mystery of high performance and satisfaction that can be achieved at work, at school and at home. At the same time Pink dispels the myth of the “carrot-and-stick” approach and argues that it works only in a narrow set of circumstances (e.g. when solving algorithmic tasks).

He shows that there is a mismatch between what science knows about motivation and what business practitioners do in this area. He regrets that too many organizations make their decisions and strategies about people and their talents based on outdated and unexamined assumptions that have their roots in folklore rather than in science. Pink’s solution is an entirely new approach, built around intrinsic motivation (in contrast to extrinsic motivation which is based on tempting people with a sweeter carrot, or threatening them with a sharper stick).

The new modus operandi for us and our businesses should consist of these three building blocks:

  • autonomy – the deep human need to direct our own lives;
  • mastery – the striving for getting better and better at something that matters;
  • purpose – the longing to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

Instead of “if-you-do-this-then-you-will-get-that” rewards and punishments, which often destroy creativity, Pink recommends reliance on the unseen intrinsic drive. The drive to do things for their own good because they matter and because scientific research confirms what we know in our hearts. The key to relying on intrinsic drivers is engagement in activities that are interesting, ambitious and absorbing, especially for artists, scientists, inventors and students. When people are rewarded (extrinsic motivation), surprisingly, they have more difficulty finding original solutions while solving problems or creative tasks. So, they should motivate themselves and not wait for rewards.

I am convinced that Pink’s “Drive” is a unique book that can change the way we think and transform the way we live and work. After reading it you will be driven to reinvent not only the model of your business, but also your life.

Reference: Pink, D.H. (2009). Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

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