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Last night and was chilling out and reading Dan Pink's new book about motivation in business, Drive (not an affiliate link), which arrived at my Post Office box yesterday. Excited, I didn't waste anytime digging the car out from the ice pile and dashing off to collect it! 

Here's a quick synopsis from a TED talk that the author gave last summer:


Pink looked at research in motivation and realised that things were skewiff, in other words, most companies and businesses try to motivate people extrinsically using money, bonuses, perks etc.  

However, scientific research shows that people are more intrinsically motivated than first thought and the carrot and stick approach may actually have a detrimental effect.

Interestingly, Pink found that people have:

"An innate need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world."

He went on to summarise this concept as:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Mastery
  3. Purpose

The big question then becomes one of how do you create an environment in which this behaviour can flourish?  

Well, you can see it in enlightened places like Google, where managers can have 20% of their time doing projects of their own volition, unrelated to their work.  Some of these projects even make to the market, benefitting the company and the employees.

In an ideal Utopia, everyone would work in a results only work environment (ROWE) where people don't have schedules, show up when they like and get the work done when they want to, as long as deadlines are met.  

In some ways, this is why I enjoy the life as a management consultant running my own firm so much, precisely because there is more freedom to get things done when I want to.  For example, I prefer writing complex reports in the middle of the night in peace and quiet, free from distractions. It becomes almost a Zen-like experience where clarity of thought is much clearer and sharper.  The output is much better that way and clients seem very happy.  It's hard (but not impossible) to do that while working for a big corporation who expects employees to be in the next day by a certain time.  

Of course, one is also free to read, learn and research things that interest you, excused the tyranny of days driven by interminable meetings, but that is another story!

If you haven't read the book, I would highly recommend it.  It's very different from his previous book I read, A Whole New Mind, but equally enjoyable.  If you have read it, what was your perspective?

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