Drive Your Performance Up

Drive Your Performance Up


Most of us believe that the best way to motivate ourselves and others is with external rewards like money – the age-old carrot-and-stick approach. That’s a mistake, Daniel Pink says in his new book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. The secret to high performance and satisfaction at work, at school, and at home, he says, is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better – for ourselves and our world.
Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science has discovered and what business does, and how that affects every aspect of life. He demonstrates that while carrots and sticks worked successfully in the twentieth century, that’s the wrong way to motivate people for today’s challenges.

The Evolution Of Motivation

The book comprises three sections:

1. A New Operating System.
Here Pink explores the evolution of motivation “operating systems” throughout history and how the science of motivation is leading us to what he calls Motivation 3.0. At the end of Part One, he outlines the differences between workers who are intrinsically motivated (Type I) and extrinsically motivated (Type X).

2. The Three Elements.
Here Pink explores how the three elements of true motivation – autonomy, mastery and purpose – can drive performance, fulfilment and profits up and offers techniques for putting these into action. Along the way, he takes us to companies that are enlisting new approaches to motivation and introduces us to the scientists and entrepreneurs who are pointing the way forward.

3. The Type I Toolkit.
This section includes: Strategies for Awakening Motivation, Paying People the Type I way, a reading list of 15 Essential Books, and 4 Tips for Getting and Staying Motivated to Exercise. Part Three is the “Type I Toolkit”, which includes suggestions, reading lists, and other tools for individuals and organisations to help them become more Type I. As Pink says, Type Is are made, not born. He suggests actions like picking the motto that should be emblazoned on your own personal motivational poster and writing down the one sentence that describes who you are.

The pure joy of the task

There are several basic motives behind human behaviour. Pink explains that out first drive is biological. It is the most basic and primitive and includes the need for food, drink, shelter and basic survival. The second drive is more external: reward and punishment. Typically, if you reward someone, you’ll get more of what they are doing. Punish them, and you’ll get them to do it less. For the last 150 years, businesses have been built on that principle. This is where psychologists, managers and parents have spent most of their time.

But then, when a group of monkeys started playing with puzzles with enjoyment and focus, scientists realised that there might be another drive in all of us. This third drive is focused on the pure joy of performing the task. Pink explores all the different ways that this third drive expresses itself and the results both people and organisations achieved when they opened themselves up to this third drive.

Motivating the creative types

Pink looked at all the research into human motivation and what it says, over and over again, is that carrots and sticks work, but in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances. And particularly for creative and conceptual tasks, they don’t work very well. A lot of white-collar work, Pink adds, requires less of the routine, rule-based, algorithmic set of capabilities, and more of the harder-to-outsource, harder-to-automate, non-routine, creative, abilities.

Pink’s conclusion is that the classic motivational scheme within an organisation – bonuses and higher salaries – doesn’t work for creative tasks. He argues instead for real autonomy. One example he gives is of a results-oriented work environment (ROWE), where employees set their own hours – they come to work to work, not because they have to be at the office for nine hours every day. He also points to Google’s famous 20% programme, where engineers are allowed to use 20% of their time to work on projects that interest them. An Australian technology company called Atlassian implemented something similar – engineers are given a full day each quarter to work on any software problem they wish, a ritual the company calls its “FedEx” days (completed projects are delivered overnight), and which has resulted in some of the best tech in the company today.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, By Daniel Pink, is published by Riverhead Hardcover.
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Monique Verduyn
Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.