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Daniel H. Pink talks to us about Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, his recent and highly successful book.
The Drive Behind “Drive”
Charles Green: In the dedication of Drive, you mention Sophia, Eliza and Saul, “the surprising trio that motivates me.” What got you started on looking into this whole question of human motivation?
Dan Pink: Our kids were part of the impetus, I guess. But Drive is mostly the outgrowth of A Whole New Mind, which I published in 2005. That book argues that we’re moving from a world built less on logical, linear, left-brain, spreadsheet abilities–and more on the hard-to-outsource, hard-to-automate, artistic, empathic right-brain abilities.
After that book, people said to me: “If you’re right about this shift in abilities, then how do we motivate people to do this sort of work?” I didn’t have a clue. But I knew there was a body of research on human motivation. So I started exploring it. And I quickly realized that it was a vast body of research–and much of it overturned orthodoxies I didn’t even realize were orthodoxies.
Motivation 2.0 and 3.0
Charlie: In the book you talk about Motivation 2.0, which still has a hold on many managers and businesses: the idea that without extrinsic motivators of rewards and punishments, people at work will be unmotivated, aimless and unproductive–that therefore employees and teams need to be motivated and managed externally. How would you tie this view of human motivation to trust?
Dan: It’s inextricably linked to the idea of trust. If you believe you can’t trust employees, then you have to put in place all kinds of mechanisms for control. There’s no way around that. If you think other people can’t be trusted, then the Motivation 3.0 approach I write about is a total non-starter.
Charlie: Your idea of Motivation 3.0 stems from the understanding that we, as human beings, are intrinsically motivated to take on responsibility, to look for creative and intellectual challenges and to solve problems. Can you talk a little more about the three factors which make up Motivation 3.0 and lead to production and satisfaction for individuals at work:
- Opportunity for Mastery (competence)
- Purpose (relatedness)
Dan: Sure. The idea here is that if you want people to be motivated to do well on creative, conceptual, complex work, you have to pay them enough–and offer these three elements.
Autonomy is the drive to direct our own lives. People generally perform better when they have a little more autonomy over what they do, when they do it, how they do it, and with whom they do it.
Mastery is the drive to get better at something that matters and to make progress in our work. It’s hugely powerful and often ignored inside of organizations.
And purpose is our drive to contribute and to know that what we do has an influence in the wider world. For most of the work people do today, autonomy, mastery, and purpose are generally far more effective than carrots and sticks.
Motivation, Management and Trust
Charlie: “Managing” from the point of view of 3.0 requires a lot of trust of individuals; it’s a far cry from our traditional mindset around “managing” which equates largely to directing and controlling. Managing from a belief in Motivation 3.0 really requires that the “manager” trust her staff to work hard, be productive, and do the right thing. What would you say to a manager who is afraid to take that risk of trusting?
Dan: I’d say three things. First, take a leap of faith and give it a try. Be willing to let people surprise you.
Second, think about the costs of not trusting. You’re basically saying you prefer controlled mediocrity (which is what you get with control and lack of trust) rather than a chance to do something amazing.
Third, ask yourself, “Can you be trusted?” “Can your spouse or partner be trusted?” “Can your best friend be trusted?” Maybe the people in your organization aren’t all that different than the people in your life.
Charlie: If 20th century “management” thinkers had had a Motivation 3.0 mindset, it seems to us that it could have been applied in routine, even production-line work–because basic human drives haven’t changed that much in 100 years. Do you think that Motivation 3.0 is only applicable to the 21st century ways of working? Or is it that Motivation 3.0 is just more necessary to 21st century workers and 21st century work?
Dan: It’s an interesting question. As you know from the book, I’m trying to look at what science–not folklore or our intuitions–says about motivation. And the science is pretty clear: for routine, algorithmic work, “If-then” motivators–as in “If you do this, then you get that”–are effective.
But that doesn’t mean “if-then” is the only way to create a motivating environment for those sorts of tasks. It’s possible, for instance, to help people doing routine work sculpt their jobs to make them more autonomous and better avenues for mastery. Likewise, people often do routine work a bit better when they have some amount of autonomy over how they do their work–and when they know how what they do contributes to a larger whole. So Motivation 3.0 is essential for creative, conceptual work. But it can also be effective for other types of work.
Innovation and Trust
Charlie: Motivation 3.0 seems to describe a fertile atmosphere for innovation. How would you link innovation and trust?
Dan: People don’t innovate when they feel others don’t trust them. Period. Innovation often depends on the absence of constraints. And mistrust is one of the most constraining forces around.
Charlie: Interesting; that’s exactly the linkage defined by Ross Smith at Microsoft and by Robert Porter Lynch. They both emphasize the lowering of risk that trust implies, which then permits people to openly engage with each other.
Dan: Not surprising. Mistrust is terrific for making people comply; it stinks for helping people engage.
Results-Only Work Environments
Charlie: In your book you give some wonderful examples of ROWE – Results-Only Work Environments, in which employees have great freedom as to when, where and how they work as long as the work gets done. How close are we to seeing the wider spread of that way of thinking? How does the technology, which lets people work outside their offices, contribute to even informal ROWEs?
Dan: I think the adoption of these new approaches will follow the general pattern of technology adoption in general. We often overhype the impact of new technologies in the short run–but underhype them in the long run. So I doubt these approaches will be incredibly widespread in the next 2 years. But in the next 10 years, they’ll become the norm.
The Talent Picks the Team
Charlie: When you talk about autonomy, you examine having influence or control over Task, Time, Technique and Team. Talk to us about the Team element of this equation. For example, putting together a “pick-up” team of like-minded people, or those who have skills you need—isn’t that hard to do in any work environment?
Dan: Team is a tough one. But Facebook has a really innovative approach to this. The company hires new computer scientists and software engineers and for the first few weeks puts them through a Facebook bootcamp. As part of that experience, the new hires interview around the company–with various product teams, technology teams, and so on. Then when the bootcamp ends, the newly hired engineer decides which team she wants to work for. That is, the company picks the talent. But the talent picks the team.
A State of “Flow”
Charlie: You mention Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s surprising finding in Flow that people reach a flow state–or being in a state of focus or complete absorption so that time disappears–more through satisfying work than through their leisure activities. Why is that?
Dan: Csikszentmihalyi says it has less to do with the difference between work and leisure per se–and more to do with the difference between activity and passivity. Most work is at least somewhat challenging–and it requires some amount of effort. But many kinds of leisure are passive. Think watching television. There’s no challenge presented, no effort required.
So, since flow depends on the challenge being matched to one’s ability, passive leisure never results in flow. That said, active leisure–think rock-climbing or oil painting–does produce flow. The key, I think, is to fashion our lives–at school, at work, at home–around being active and engaged. Human beings weren’t meant to be passive and inert.
Charlie: Fascinating, Dan; thanks so much for taking time to explore this with me, I appreciate it.
Dan: Not at all.
Books We Trust: Drive by Dan Pink is the third installment in our Books We Trust series.
Previous Books We Trust interviews include:
There’s a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon between what science knows – the science around human motivation – and what business does, and the result is disastrous for the economy, for businesses, and for human beings. This, according to Daniel Pink in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.
The author calls the old business understanding of what drives us Motivation 2.0: without extrinsic motivators of rewards and punishments, people at work will be unmotivated, aimless and unproductive. Thus, the science of management: employees and teams need to be motivated and managed externally.
And Motivation 2.1 isn’t much better, despite talk around flexibility and empowerment.
“.. .consider the very notion of ‘empowerment.’ It presumes that the organization has the power and benevolently ladles some of it into the waiting bowls of grateful employees.”
Pink argues that not only does Motivation 2.0 not work in the new economy, it does great harm. Backed by rich research from various fields the author gives examples of how the misuse of extrinsic rewards, so common in business, impedes creativity, stifles personal satisfaction and turns play into work. After basic material needs are met, the quid pro quo of if/then rewards–if you do this, I’ll give you that–saps the juice from the job.
One of the most fascinating examples of this in the book is research done by Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School. Prof. Amabile and colleagues asked a number of artists to select twenty of their works, ten of which were non-commissioned and ten of which were commissioned. A panel of curators and art experts, knowing nothing of the nature of the research, was then asked to rate each work on creativity and technical skill. And – as you guessed – while the skill ratings were equal, the commissioned works consistently rated lower on creativity. The commission turned the artists’ play into work.
Motivation 3.0 stems from the understanding that we, as human beings, are intrinsically motivated to take on responsibility, to look for creative and intellectual challenges and to solve problems. We are self-directed and work best when we have three things:
– Autonomy: the ability to control aspects of our time, tasks, techniques, and teams
– The Opportunity for Mastery
– Purpose: a connection to something larger than ourselves
These are the factors which create real employee engagement.
Then why is it so hard for business to move to Motivation 3.0 – nourishing employees’ intrinsic motivations instead of “managing” employees through carrots and sticks? After all, the research, while growing, isn’t new. Some of these findings have been around since the 1940s.
I believe it’s a matter of trust – “managers” aren’t ready to trust their teams’ or employees’ intrinsic motivation to do good and creative work. If the motivation is extrinsic – rewards like money and promotions, or punishments like docked pay – they can control it. If the motivation is intrinsic, managers have to trust their employees. It’s that simple, if not that easy, and Drive speaks to the heart of these issues in a rich and readable way.
Growing up as a cub consultant, billable hours were without question the defining metric in the consulting industry. It seemed obvious therefore, that achieving success would be dependent on increasing my billable hours. I was hardly the only young consultant to come to this obvious conclusion.
Fortunately for me, I found a mentor who took me aside one day and explained that billable hours shouldn’t be seen as a goal; instead, I should see them as the outcome of the quality of my work. In other words, if my work was good, there would be no shortage of hours. From that perspective, billable hours were an indirect and lagging indicator of quality.
His message was loud and clear: I should worry less about my direct output metric, and focus more on the principles, behaviors, and attitudes with which I approached my work. It was, in retrospect, the most important lesson of my consulting career and one too few others are taught.
In that light, two recent blog posts caught my attention. One was by Charlie Green, in which he recounted a fable with a choice between trust and measurement. Another was by Chris Brogan, extolling the virtues of a trust agent at LinkedIn. The coincident timing of these two posts, with my own experience, drove the title of this post.
Is it possible that, as my mentor warned, we have systemically driven a wedge between the practice of good management and the tools of measurement? Has the relationship between driver and driven been reversed? Has the metric become the goal in itself rather than the outcome it sought to measure? Has measurement become the enemy of management?
Management and Measurement
Of course, good measurement should serve management. It has always been an important element of managing, it tells the good manager where to look although not what to do. There is nothing intrinsically that sets management at odds with measurement until the manager uses the metric as a substitute for judgment. How many companies established arbitrary targets for reductions in force in the recent recession rather than gaining a broad and deep understanding of where capacity could be reduced without damaging long-term capability?
I’m beginning to fear however, that measurement is replacing management. Several pervasive and tectonic factors have driven the two apart. One is simply, for lack of a better term, the modularization of business. Business process reengineering, supposedly invented 25 years ago, has taught us to break businesses into many pieces, and to achieve full scale economies (hopefully at a global level) in each of them.
That kind of approach demands that each module fit neatly with the next, the same way that couplers enable railcars to effectively and efficiently hook up and create a train. The “couplers” of choice have almost always been metrics. If we can specify measurements that our suppliers must meet, then we can have the best of both worlds – customization and scale. The more modularized our businesses, the more we manage by measurement.
Question: Did the folks managing the Deepwater Horizon rig think about the revenues and profit BP would gain from a safe and successful well in the Gulf and conversely the risk of a disaster? Or did they think about the bonuses that would go along with meeting budget and timing expectations for getting the drilling done and the rig moved?
Of perhaps more direct importance is that we have simply become more short-term and reward driven in business then we were 100,000 years ago when I was a pup. My fellow consultants who obsessed about their billable hours may not have had as much long term success in their individual careers as those who paid attention to quality and long-term relationships, but it seems that they have won the measurement war. The true tragedy is that the measures that may have merit when looking at a large scale organization, may destroy trust and relationships at the individual level. Charlie wrote about the dangers of measurement focus as it relates to sales and client relationships in his February 2, Business Week article, Metrics: Overmeasuring Our Way to Management.
The dominant belief systems today in business include “maximize shareholder value,” “if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it,” and “what’s the net present monetized value of that.” Finance is the driving function of today’s business world; in my day, that claim was held by the value producers. Too often we drive for the metric itself, forgetting that the metric is supposed to measure something bigger, deeper, more important and fundamental. To use the consulting analogy, we are all focused on monthly billable hours instead of value for the client. “Pay-for-performance” has become shorthand for lazy management. If you assume that the numbers are everything, then you don’t need to dig beneath the numbers to find out their drivers.
Actually, I suspect it goes deeper. “Pay-for-performance” is also an expression of lack of trust. It comes from an unwillingness to trust others to do the right thing in a business context; what we view as risk mitigation is in fact a form of management by asphyxiation. Managers throughout organizations know that it is the metrics that matter…the overall outcome is incidental. We have replaced “no pain, no gain” with “no risk, no loss” when it comes to developing managers and finding creative ways to add new value.
To go back to Chris Brogan’s trust agents, does your company know who its trust agents are? Does your organization support, value and reward its trust agents? These are the people who chose door number one in Charlie’s fable….choosing to have the highest level of trust while giving up the ability to have it measured.
So a question for the readers: Has measurement become the enemy of management? Or can we have it both ways?
From VIP (very interesting person) Randi comes this story:
I was head of HR for a 50-person entrepreneurial startup. The CEO—Joe–was a proven big company corporate manager, and a strong believer in traditional management theories like pay for performance, measurement, and financial rewards. I think they’re tricky, and over-rated.
Once we had a major online product launch, culminating on a Monday. Several folks in the IT group pulled a 48-hour all-nighter to get it all done. We pulled it off, and went live Monday morning without a glitch.
As we all celebrated, Joe decided to introduce his newest motivational tool—spot cash rewards. He went around, quietly handing out fifty-dollar bills to selected people, saying how much he appreciated their contribution to this team effort.
Some were delighted. Then he gave one to a maintenance crewmember as he came from cleaning the men’s room. The guy’s face quickly reflected two emotions in rapid succession: WTF? And then ‘lemme get outta here before this sucker figures out who I am.’
Joe was a little discomfited. He then went up to one of the key IT folks who had spent the entire weekend in the office, approaching him with a big smile and handing him the $50 with a pat on the back.
This time the look was different: more like incredulity, as in, “I do 48 hours straight no-pay overtime and you figure I’m worth a dollar an hour? Same as the guy doing his cleaning job on his regular shift?”
I said to Joe later, “now do you see what I meant about carrots and sticks?”
Too many managers automatically assume that carrots and sticks are the primary motivators of worker performance. At a macro level, it’s even worse; TV pundits and economists all overtly say things like “people are motivated by economic opportunity,” using that to justify the dampening impacts of raising marginal tax rates, for example.
It’s just not particularly true. Study after study suggest not only that extrinsic rewards are not only less powerful than intrinsic rewards, but even that the usual “soft” rewards (praise, recognition) are not tops in the motivation department.
An interesting recent study based on 12,000 diary entries suggests that the largest motivator of people is almost absurdly obvious: the sense of making progress in their work. A feeling of progress trumps all the others.
Carrots and sticks have their proponents, and their place; but as Randi suggests—they’re overrated.
How far have we come in 100 years?
In 1911, Frederick W. Taylor published “The Principles of Scientific Management.” (read it directly at that link for free, thanks to the Google scanning initiative).
It makes remarkable reading today. Taylor’s proposition was simple. We need to stop just looking for talented people, and better train and organize normal people. Management is a science—the science of efficiency. It applies to all jobs, and all who use it benefit.
Workers themselves are incapable—“stupid” is his preferred word—of understanding the scientific principles that maximize their efficiency. Ditto even for initiative. The job of management is to define people’s jobs in extraordinary detail, and to provide initiative.
“Workmen will not submit to this more rigid standardization and will not work extra hard, unless they receive extra pay for doing it… management must inform [the worker] at frequent intervals as to the progress he is making, so that hey may not unintentionally fall off in his pace…the workman alone even with full knowledge of the new methods and with the best of intentions could not attain these startling results.”
“The average workman must be able to measure what he has accomplished and clearly see his rewards at the end of each day if he is to do his best…cooperation or “profit-sharing”…have been at the best only mildly effective in stimulating men to work hard. The nice time which they are sure to have today if they take things easily and go slowly proves more attractive than steady hard work with a possible reward to be shared with others six months later.”
Taylor is most famous for his remarkably detailed time and motion studies of activities like shoveling coal and transporting pig iron to a rail car. It’s easy to read Taylor as quaint. To the objection that measuring coal-shovelers and pig-iron handlers is irrelevant to advanced workers, Taylor responds with—time and motion studies of lathe-cutters.
But in fact, Taylor is very much with us today.
A recent emailing from Harvard Business School Publishing headlines, “If You’re Not Measuring Marketing, You’re Not Marketing.”
It advertises a CD-ROM on Measuring Marketing Performance that tells you “how to create a marketing dashboard that can reveal the true performance of the company’s marketing activities. The dashboard can be used to inform boards of directors and senior leaders as to how well their marketing efforts are supporting customers’ needs.”
The only thing Taylor would argue with is whether the shovelers are intelligent enough to provide the data on shoveling with which they are to be measured.
The ubiquity of “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” (see here, or here, or here),while transparently false and based on a misreading of Taylor, is testimony to the pervasiveness of his influence.
What we have taken—and kept—from Taylor is a passion for breaking things down into tiny tasks, measured in tiny units of time. Technology and process engineering have enabled us to extend this philosophy to unprecedented levels. We have come to believe that basically all management is a variation on workflow design—if we measure precisely enough, and mete out just the right carrots and sticks, we will produce a perpetual motion/money machine.
It is easy to caricature Frederick Taylor, despite the ways in which we continue to emulate him. But he was wise in ways we have conveniently forgotten. The "management equals measurement" people treat measurement as both necessary and sufficient; Taylor only argued the former.
“The mechanism of management must not be mistaken for its essence, or underlying philosophy…when elements of this mechanism, such as time study, are used without being accompanied by the true philosophy of management, the results are in many cases disastrous….the really great problem involved in a change from the management of “initiative and incentive” to scientific management consists in a complete revolution in the mental attitude and the habits of all those engaged in the management, as well also the workman…this change…is a matter of from two to three years, and in some cases it requires from four to five years."
Plus ca change…
Salespeople are motivated by money and competition. If you want them to sell more, offer more money, and have them compete for rewards. The sales contest is the perfect motivational combination.
Or so goes the conventional wisdom. But it’s wrong—and many of the best salespeople will tell you so. Here’s why.
Money and competition are about getting more money from your customers than other salespeople can get from theirs. And contests are typically short-term affairs—usually a matter of months, a year at most.
Salespeople in a contest are therefore in a rush to see who can extract the most cash out of his customers the fastest. As one of the hoary old “jokes” about sales goes, “selling is the fine art of separating the customer from his wallet.”
I don’t happen to think that joke’s funny, and I doubt too many customers do either. But that’s the mentality fostered by a race to extract maximum money per short term time period.
It turns customers into objects. It telescopes time into the (very) near future. And so it flies in the face of developing relationships based on helping the customer, and based on a longer time-frame that allows the evolution of strategies beneficial to both seller and buyer.
Here’s the paradox (there always is a paradox when it comes to trust). Sales contests are usually held to juice up short-term results. But the best short term results actually come from the ongoing execution of long-term strategies. Sales contests actually hurt long-term performance.
The mania for measuring short-term has led many companies to execute a massive faux pas—managing for the short-term. You know the saying: “you can’t manage it if you can’t measure it.” The unspoken corollaries are, “more measurement is better,” and “if we can measure it short term then we’d better manage it short-term.”
None of it is true. If you were to manage all the other relationships in your life this way—maximizing the short-term monetary benefit you can extract from your spouse, your friends, your children—then you would live a shallow life that will come to bite you. It is no different in business.
Do you grant your loyalty and future business to someone who views you as primarily a source of their own short-term financial gratification? If not, why should you expect anyone else to?
Sales contests are just one of the more obvious manifestations of this mania for short-term, treat-‘em-as-wallets, manage-like-you-measure mentality. It infects comp systems and sales process designs as well.
If you’re a sales manager, measure short-term results—but teach everyone that the best way to get them is to manage long-term.
If you’re a salesperson, then—unless you’re a year away from retirement and don’t give a damn about your reputation—act as if you plan to be in service to your customers for a long, long time.
That’s how they return the favor.
And there’s that paradox again. The best way to make money is to stop selfishly looking to make money. Instead, be trusted—by being trustworthy.