What Motivates Us?

Daniel Pink was voted one of the top 50 influential business thinkers in the world in 2011 and his book Drive: The Surprising Truth of What Motivates Us capitalizes on 50 years of behavioral science to reveal some surprising insight as to what indeed actually motivates us.

For straightforward, mechanical tasks, a financial reward is very effective at increasing performance.  Interesting enough, for the tasks that require higher-level cognitive skills, innovation, and creativity, financial incentives actually impeded performance.  So if the stick and carrot aren't effective at inspiring performance with higher cognitive levels - how can we inspire performance in a way that releases innovation, creativity, and productivity?

Pink suggests a more effective way to motivate.  The reality is to some degree money is a motivator but to a point - the key then is to pay well enough that money isn't the issue.  This means the employee isn't thinking about money but is thinking about the work.  With this base issue being addressed then these three areas are key to better performance:

  • Autonomy - our desire to be self-directed.  This is key if you want your

    "It is doing a job you love and being given the tools and freedom to love it well that inspires great performance."

    employees to be engaged.  This differs from managing in that managing doesn't produce engagement only compliance.
  • Mastery - is our personal desire to get better at something, to do something well, and this provides a sense of satisfaction.
  • Purpose - meaning is important!  People want to give their lives for more than the bottom line, something that is bigger than themselves.

Have a look at the video below and while you are watching consider:

  1. What are you passionate about?  What inspires you?
  2. Do you feel inspired and motivated in your vocation?
  3. What ways can you facilitate opportunities for autonomy, mastery, and purpose in your own work and the work of those you lead?


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