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.”

Are you just going to stand there?

Tipton Pork Festival ParadeI was standing with my family, talking and waiting for the parade to start.  It was that time of year again.  The Pork Festival had come to town and today was the big day.  On Saturday, there is a big parade and everyone who wants to see it lines up along the parade route for a view of the action.  My family had decided to set up under a tree and so I was hanging out in between the tree and the road.  You can see from this picture that I was basically riding the yellow line.  I was going to head back to the house either at the start of the parade or before in order to be at the house in case guests arrived early for my son’s first birthday party, but as I was standing there, the guy to my left said:

Hey buddy, are you just going to stand there? I don’t mean to be rude, but I won’t be able to see the parade from here if you’re standing there.

I replied, “No, I’ll be leaving before then.”  It was rude, but I didn’t really mind.  It made me think, “Erich, are you just going to stand there or are you going to do something about the situations you find yourself in right now?”

I’m a big fan of the ability to change your outcomes based first on changing how you feel and think on the inside.  However, in practice this is not always easy to do, nor sometimes does it seem to be effective.  The Law of Attraction would tell you that the reason things don’t always seem to improve is because I say they don’t. This may or may not be true, but the result is the same.  I am going through the motions: I am limiting negative thoughts, I don’t listen to the news, I only read or listen to positive and/or educational material, I focus on what I want, not what I don’t want, and I take action.  I have been sleeping less and working more.  I am focused on Internet Marketing as my primary business model. And the results are starting to show.  I now have blogs that make money daily, but there are still those which are not.  The Law of Focus says that whatever you focus on, expands.  That is why T. Harv Eker says not to complain, but to act instead.  Acting is what I am doing, I just wish it was happening faster.

So what are you going to do about it?

Successful people never quit.  They are experienced at overcoming obstacles because they view themselves as bigger than any obstacle.  I will double-down and refocus my efforts, to ensure success.   And…my parents just showed up.  Let the party (and the rest of my life) begin!

7 Ways to Grow the Action Habit

People at the top of every profession share one quality — they get things done. This ability supercedes intelligence, talent, and connections in determining the size of your salary and the speed of your advancement.

Despite the simplicity of this concept there is a perpetual shortage of people who excel at getting results. The action habit — the habit of putting ideas into action now — is essential to getting things done. Here are 7 ways you can grow the action habit:

1. Don’t wait until conditions are perfect
– If you’re waiting to start until conditions are perfect, you probably never will. There will always be something that isn’t quite right. Either the timing is off, the market is down, or there’s too much competition. In the real world there is no perfect time to start. You have to take action and deal with problems as they arise. The best time to start was last year. The second best time is right now.

2. Be a doer – Practice doing things rather than thinking about them. Do you want to start exercising? Do you have a great idea to pitch your boss? Do it today. The longer an idea sits in your head without being acted on, the weaker it becomes. After a few days the details gets hazy. After a week it’s forgotten completely. By becoming a doer you’ll get more done and stimulate new ideas in the process.

3. Remember that ideas alone don’t bring success
– Ideas are important, but they’re only valuable after they’ve been implemented. One average idea that’s been put into action is more valuable than a dozen brilliant ideas that you’re saving for “some other day” or the “right opportunity”. If you have an idea the you really believe in, do something about it. Unless you take action it will never go anywhere.

4. Use action to cure fear
– Have you ever noticed that the most difficult part of public speaking is waiting for your turn to speak? Even professional speakers and actors experience pre-performance anxiety. Once they get started the fear disappears. Action is the best cure for fear. The most difficult time to take action is the very first time. After the ball is rolling, you’ll build confidence and things will keep getting easier. Kill fear by taking action and build on that confidence.

5. Start your creative engine mechanically – One of the biggest misconceptions about creative work is that it can only be done when inspiration strikes. If you wait for inspiration to slap you in the face, your work sessions will be few and far between. Instead of waiting, start your creative motor mechanically. If you need to write something, force yourself to sit down and write. Put pen to paper. Brainstorm. Doodle. By moving your hands you’ll stimulate the flow of ideas and inspire yourself.

6. Think in terms of now
– Focus on what you can do in the present moment. Don’t worry about what you should have done last week or what you might be able to do tomorrow. The only time you can affect is the present. If you speculate too much about the past or the future you won’t get anything done. Tomorrow or next week frequently turns into never. As Ben Franklin said, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

7. Get down to business immediately – It’s common practice for people to socialize and make small talk at the beginning of meetings. The same is true for individual workers. How often do you check email or RSS feeds before doing any real work? These distractions will cost you serious time if you don’t bypass them and get down to business immediately. By becoming someone who gets to the point you’ll be more productive and people will look to you as a leader.

It takes courage to take action without instructions from the person in charge. Perhaps that’s why initiative is a rare quality that’s coveted by managers and executives everywhere. Seize the initiative. Be a crusader. When you have a good idea, start implementing it without being told. Once people see you’re serious about getting things done they’ll want to join in. The people at the top don’t have anyone telling them what to do. If you want to join them, you should get used to acting independently.