I love Daniel H. Pink’s book Drive because it provided me with some solid reasoning as to why my career change from corporate sales to Personal Trainer has changed my life. At the forefront is what psychologist Harry F. Harlow of the University of Wisconsin described as “intrinsic motivators.” Intrinsic motivators are the things we do because of the satisfaction we feel on the inside and have nothing to do with rewards. In 1949, in one of the first laboratories to ever study primates, Harlow created a puzzle that he put in front of 8 monkeys and without any assistance, they each solved the puzzle within 14 days. No rewards whatsoever for solving them. Later in 1969, Edward Deci, a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon, also found motivation to be intrinsic when he conducted a study using the Soma puzzle. Using three groups, two of which were paid, Deci provided ample time to complete the puzzles and instructed each person to stay in the room until time was up whether they completed the puzzle or not. All stayed, but only the unpaid group continued playing with the puzzles in his/her spare time. This was quite contrary to most people’s belief at the time that without some sort of reward humans, monkeys, you name it, would not perform a task well unless incentivized with food, money or something else external. Pink, as well as Harlow and Deci, believe that if companies and individuals want to survive in the 21st century workplace, we all must come to understand motivation better.
Motivation has been around since the beginning of time for different reasons. Pink calls the first reason, Motivation 1.0, and it is purely biological. Man hunted for food to rid himself of hunger pains, drank water to rid himself of thirst, and copulated for pleasure. This way of living lasted for thousands of years until man reached Motivation 2.0. This new “operating system” says Pink “has been essential to economic progress around the world, especially during the last two centuries.” And the main form of motivation here has less to do with biological factors and more to do with rewarding the good and punishing the bad. Otherwise known as “carrot and stick.” If you want to increase productivity, exceed shareholders’ expectations, and foster excellence within your business or organization, then reward those who produce and punish those who don’t. The only problem with this strategy is no one ever considered the collateral consequences that this type of system creates. “And what science is revealing is that carrots and sticks can promote bad behavior, create addiction, and encourage short-term thinking at the expense of the long view.”
Not long ago, I was a salesperson and my very existence at any number of companies was predicated on my ability to sell a product or service. It was the “carrot and stick” mentality that not only ruled the day, but was the driving force behind either meeting or exceeding your quota and being rewarded or not meeting quota and being put on probation. Here’s how it worked: Goals were set annually and discussed with management at the beginning of each year. They must be met monthly or quarterly. Strategies are discussed with your direct report and tools such as Hoovers and Salesforce are provided to assist you. Your goals or “numbers,” as we called them, are publicly displayed on whiteboards, distributed through email and openly discussed in weekly or biweekly meetings. Everyone knows how well they are performing and stacking up against other salesmen.
This type of in-your-face accountability is meant to spark competitiveness and it can be hard to handle when you are underperforming. Even when you are doing well, you still may be a victim because the rush associated with winning is the same one you get from illicit drugs. Pink has identified 7 reasons why “carrot and stick” management is flawed:
1) It can extinguish intrinsic motivation.
2) It can diminish performance.
3) It can crush creativity.
4) It can discourage good behavior.
5) It can encourage cheating.
6) It can become addictive.
7) It can foster short-term thinking.
So, what if what we have been using for the last 200 years or so is outdated and counterproductive? What should organizations, companies, and individuals do to remain relevant and competitive? The answer is found in the differences between type I and type X behavior.
Type X behavior, X for extrinsic, is the kind of behavior exhibited in a movie like The Wolf of Wall Street. Leonardo Di Caprio plays Jordan Belfort, a brash, persistent, and sometimes unethical man who starts at the bottom of a small brokerage firm and ends up owning his own firm. A lot of money is made, but a lot of souls are lost in the process.
Type I behavior, I is for intrinsic, is the kind of behavior you find in Steve Jobs. Jobs writes, “if you’re unsure what you want to do in life wait tables until you figure it out.” Type I’s are the type that leave a career after 10+ years, like I did, because “ultimately, type I behavior depends on three nutrients: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Type I behavior is self-directed. It is devoted to becoming better and better at something that matters. And it connects the quest for excellence to a larger purpose.” This statement alone was probably the most provocative in the book because it helped explain everything I had been through in my journey from corporate sales to personal trainer.
If you are in search of something bigger than what you are currently doing for a living, then you need to read Drive. This book is an excellent resource for learning more about yourself and how you fit into the new world order economy. With a resource like this at your side you will either find courage to pursue your dreams or you will be motivated to continue chasing your dreams if not yet accomplished. Either way, it is a win-win. For myself, I am further convinced health/wellness is the industry best suited for me. I have the autonomy to support my clients in the best way I see fit. I am in an environment that requires tens of years to master, and the purpose is a noble one, to assist people in living their best lives. Thanks to Daniel Pink’s and other scientist’s research, we now have proof that motivation goes far beyond our extrinsic rewards. We should trust our instincts when choosing our career and do what feels right in our souls.
“It is those who are least motivated to pursue extrinsic rewards who eventually receive them.” –Teresa Amabile, Harvard Business School.