Dan Pink on the Surprising Science of Motivation

TED has a talk entitled, “The Suprising Science of Motivation,” where career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think.

With a trio of influential bestsellers, Dan Pink has changed the way companies view the modern workplace. In the pivotal A Whole New Mind, Pink identifies a sea change in the global workforce — the shift of an information-based corporate culture to a conceptual base, where creativity and big-picture design dominates the landscape.

His latest book, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko, is an evolutionary transformation of the familiar career guide. Replacing linear text with a manga-inspired comic, Pink outlines six career laws vastly differing from the ones you’ve been taught. Members of the Johnny Bunko online forum participated in an online contest to create the seventh law — “stay hungry.”

A contributing editor for Wired, Pink is working on a new book on the science and economics of motivation for release in late 2009.

Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think.

All of these ideas will be especially relevant to the newest entrants to the workplace, the Millenials/Gen Y. I have been doing staffing models for a while now. To make this all really work, the requirements/expectations and measurements for each role need to be transparent. “Get your work done” is viable only when people truly understand what others think “getting your work done” really means. So, each employee needs to know the results that are expected.

In my experience, organizations can miss the ball when they fail to motivate and innovate. They give people responsibility and lattitude, but they don’t clearly define the results expected and how progress will be measured. As we know from the Law of Focus, what we measure only expands and grows.

On the other hand, a larger organization having every individual participating in business planning does start to become a bit challenging. The key is that the vision and goal of the business is clearly stated to all employees, that vision doesn’t change drastically year on year, and taking the time to recruit the right people who are buying into the vision as opposed to how much money they can make. Like Jim Collins says, “You have to get the right people on the bus.”

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