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Daniel Pink on Motivation

by on March 10, 2010

Motivation has certainly been one of the topics at the forefront toward the end of our course, so I wanted to share some thoughts from the recent Harvard Business Review Ideacast with Daniel Pink.  Pink recently authored the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, and discusses some of the ideas from the book in the Ideacast Interview.  Some of the main points that he makes are:

  • The perception has been that “Carrot-and-Stick” motivators (external rewards) are not nearly as universally effective as previously thought.  In particular, “Carrot-and-Stick” motivation is best suited for repeated labor that focuses on following an established set of rules.
  • If-then motivators do not work for more complex, creative, and conceptual work.  For instance when there is a huge payoff for short-term work, the worker’s motivation may be to find a short-cut to receive the reward rather than truly complete the work that needs to be done.
  • If-then motivators can also stifle creativity, because complex conceptual work often is not a straight forward algorithmic process.
  • As Kevin suggested earlier in the quarter about how he established salaries with employees, Pink suggests that you “need to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table.”  This creates an environment that focuses the employee on the work rather than the money and compensation.  What type of salary negotiation strategy would you recommend as a manger?
  • The role of “interesting work” as a motivator.  People like to work toward achieving mastery, feeling engaged, and self-improvement.  As a manager how will you foster a learning environment in your organization?
  • Worker autonomy as a means of innovation.  Build in time to allow workers to develop and design their own projects.  Challenge them to find solutions; which will in turn appeal to their motivation to feel that their work is leading to something important and improves their own skills.  How would you embrace worker autonomy as a manager?

I have yet to read the book, but am looking forward to picking it up soon and sharing more.

For more student insight on Daniel Pink check out Sanjeevi’s recent post about Daniel Pink’s Ted Talk

Relevant Resources:

Dan Pink on Harvard Business Review Ideacast

Daniel Pink Home Page

-Paul Simons

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