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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

What Motivates Us - Daniel Pink


Biological Drive

Reward and Punishment Drive

Meaning Drive

Two Dimensional view of human beings is one in which we try to dampen the biological drive and pump up the reward and punishment drive, but it doesn't work very well.  What researchers have found is that this focus on the reward and punishment drive works and increases productivity with simple "mechanical" processes, but when more cognitive functions were necessary, the higher the cognitive function required actually found that reward and punishment decreased productivity.  The research is so good showing the "carrots and sticks" don't work, and yet it is routinely ignored in organizations every day.

Two False Assumptions in Organizations:

  1. Human beings are machines, and if you hit the right buttons, they'll respond the way you want them to.
  2. Human beings are blobs.  The alternative to this would be that humans are active and engaged.

There are, instead, 3 enduring motivators:

  1. Autonomy: Management is a technology from the 1850's designed to get compliance.  We don't want compliance in our organizations anymore.  Management leads to compliance. Self-direction leads to engagement.  People need autonomy over their time, their team, their tasks, and their technique.  A great example of this is the 20% autonomous time that companies like Google have instituted. (cf. this Google blog post)
  2. Mastery: The single largest motivator, according to one study, is making progress.  As human beings, we feel the most loyal to the organization, the most useful, the most meaningful is when we are making some sort of progress and growth and change and impact.  In order to have mastery, we also have to have effective feedback.
  3. Purpose: There is a rise in recent years of what could be called the purpose motive.  In the last decade we haver learned that the profit motive comes unhooked from the purpose motive, bad things happen.

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