Daniel Pink on Motivation

Daniel Pink has a new book coming out soon, which he previews in the Ted Lecture shown above.

Maybe this is a bad time for me to bring up the fact that money may not be the biggest motivating factor in the world. At my own job we’ve all been told we’re getting pay cuts. That’s a pretty big morale buster. It makes you wonder how you can ask people to do anything that falls outside of the checklist of minimal requirements for the job. It certainly calls into question what kind of professional development and innovative programs are even possible in the current economic climate.

On the other hand, I tend to agree with Dan Pink. Innovations happen when people have an intrinsic drive to succeed, to solve problems, to contribute something to world around them apart from financial motivations. That kind of drive needs a certain amount of free rein in order to thrive.

Yet…I’m not sure everyone has inner motivation even if given the right conditions. Some people would really do nothing in an environment that allowed it. Others would do far more than expected.

But here’s the catch. Those doing more are going to overshoot the balance if they are given a chance to be creative and self-motivated on the job. They’re going to make up for the dead weight and more. This is where schools, businesses, and so forth make mistakes. They create rules to control the behavior of the least productive people, and in doing so, they stifle the enthusiasm for the job of the most productive people. In the end, everyone loses.

All that aside, the question of how you can ask people to show any sort of self-motivation when they are being given more work for less pay is a tough one. The only answer I know is that you can’t make new teacher training initiatives into extra work in this case. You have to make the teacher training part of your stress management program. You have to make it play. Somehow.

It also helps if, as Pink suggests, you give over a whole lot of choice and autonomy to the teachers being trained. But then, no one actually asked me.