My most recent read has been 'Drive' by Daniel Pink. I was put onto this book for 2 reasons. The first being a desire to do a deeper dive on the research behind motiviational approaches, the second being Daniel's excellent TED talk, which you can view here.
Many of us have a fairly clear view of motivation, that is you use rewards and punishments to drive it. Whilst this old school model is still dominant in many business organisations, education establishments and sports teams the reality of what truly motivates us is very different. Daniel makes this clear by explaining our 3 innate human drive systems. The first is survival - we are motivated to do things that mean we will still be around tomorrow. The second is rewards and punishments. This drive emerged as we started to form more complex societies where the base drives could cause problems on their own. The third drive is intrinsic motivation, an internal push for the enjoyment of the task itself. here lives creativity and complex proble solving. Here lives our modern worlds.
Now if you look around you will see that large parts of our society are set up to channel the second drive, using carrots and sticks to try and increase motivation and performance. The reason for this comes from the industrial age where work was just that. Work. Tasks didn't require complex problem solving or creativity, they were mechanical and routine in nature and this is where using the second drive can be productive.
However our modern world requires a different kind of performance. the mechanical tasks have been automated, now we need thinkers, problem solvers, creatives. And using rewards and punishments to motivate this kind of performance can have devastating effects. Quoting from the book:
'Rewards can perform a sort of weird behavioural alchemy: they can transform an interesting task into a drudge. They can turn play into work. And by diminishing intrinsic motivation they can send performance, creativity and even upstanding behaviour toppling like dominoes'.
For this reason we need to change our operating systems and design work places, schools and teams to tap into our third drive: intrinsic motivation. To do so we need to consider 3 components:
- Autonomy: As humans we default to autonomy - being self directed in what we do. Unfortunately this autonomy is often stripped from us by controlling bosses or teachers. To increase intrinsic motivation we need to be given autonomy in 4 areas: task (what we do), time (when we do it), team (who we do it with) and technique (how we do it). Research shows that companies who provide autonomy to staff in these areas outperform those that don't.
'Management isn't about walking about to see if people are in their offices. It is about creating the conditions for people to do their best work'
- Mastery: This can be defined as getting better at something that matters. It occurs when we spend time in flow state, where our skills are perfectly matched to the complexity of the task. When we have a growth mindset, where we see our talents as malleable and able to be developed with practice. And when we have a gritty attitude, seeing that mastery is a long and painful journey yet that is why it is worth it.
'Being a professional is doing the things you love to do, on the days you don't feel like doing them'
- Purpose: This is simply defined as working towards a cause greater than ourselves. Knowing our why. In work this means stepping beyond profits and maximising values, allowing staff to pursue their own purpose through their work and trying to do good in the world alongside making money.
'The most deeply motivated people - not to mention those who are most productive and satisfied - hitch their desires to a cause larger than themselves'
So what can we do with this knowledge? If we are in charge of organisations or manage staff then the message is clear, we need to structure things to facilitate autonomy, mastery and purpose. To benefit as an individual we need to look for opportunities ourselves in each of these areas,
To find more autonomy you need to audit which areas you have control over, which you don't and where it could be negotiated. You may be surprised to find more opportunities than you think. To develop mastery you need to look to create flow state by matching the task to your skill level and shortening the feedback loop. To find purpose consider what you want your sentance to be, how would you want to be described in the future? Then each day ask yourself whether you moved closer to this.
I hope you've found this quick run through useful. If you'd like to see more of this type of post or you have any book recommendations for me then do leave a comment below.