What is it that causes the average executive to plant his or her feet on the floor and get out of bed in the morning? The root cause of this action can be applied to many aspects of that executive’s life. Perhaps more importantly for a leader is figuring out what motivates your employees to get out of bed in the morning and coming up with a way to make that step easier to take. Author Daniel H. Pink (“A Whole New Mind,” “Free Agent Nation”) examines motivation in his latest book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us.” In this interview, Pink discusses Type X and Type I personalities as well as the problems with traditional “carrot-and-stick” motivation.
You give ample evidence that carrot-and-stick isn’t effective, yet it continues to persist. Why are we stuck on Motivation 2.0?
It works very well for short-term tasks and it works very well for simple, routine, algorithmic tasks, whether it’s stuffing envelopes, adding up columns of figures or turning a screw on an assembly line. If it doesn’t demonstrably work for everything, why do we keep using it for everything? I’m not sure. I think part of the answer is that these external motivators, carrot-and-stick motivators are fairly easy.
The other problem is that there’s a certain amount of inertia. This is how we’ve always done things and that’s very hard to scrub out of the system. These kinds of motivators have persisted for longer than the evidence suggests that they ought to have.
The research suggests that Type I behavior also leads to better physical and mental well-being. Can you tell us a little about these findings?
That’s actually a really interesting part of the research. Typically, I use Type I and Type X as a shorthand for describing different orientations. Someone who is Type I is more intrinsically motivated than extrinsically motivated. Again, that doesn’t mean that they don’t cash their paychecks.
But their central source of motivation energy is intrinsic desires, the desire to get better at stuff, the desire to do the things that they want to do. Someone who is Type X is typically driven more by external rewards: the acclaim, the money, those sorts of things. But again, it doesn’t mean that they hate everything that they do. It’s just sort of an orientation.
What’s pretty clear is that people who have that more intrinsic motivation are happier. They have greater levels of what psychologists call ‘subjective well-being.’ It’s a pathway to overall life satisfaction. If you’re doing something you like to do because you want to do it, if you’re doing it and you’re connected to something larger than yourself, then that does have a powerful effect on your subjective wellbeing.
The three elements of this new form of motivation, you list as autonomy, mastery and purpose. Can you explain why autonomy is actually the secret to higher performance?
Management is simply a way to organize people into productive capacities. It’s a technology, in a sense, and it’s a technology designed to get people to comply. But I think that in this work force, a work force where more and more people are not doing simple, routine work, but are doing more complex, conceptual kind of work, you don’t want compliance. You want engagement.
The pathway to engagement is not management; it is self-direction. You have these examples of a lot of companies around the world giving what seems to be radical amounts of autonomy to individuals in their organizations. [It’s] autonomy over when they do what they do, their time, how they do it, their technique, their team, who they do it with and even what they actually do, their tasks. That [level of] self-direction is a pathway to engagement in much the same way that management is a gateway to compliance.