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Book review of Daniel H. Pink’s “Drive”

May 15, 2019

Awakening the Tom Sawyer Effect in Us

Astrid Ambroziak

It is 1996. You are given a crystal ball to predict the future. There will be two new encyclopedias. You have to forecast which will be more successful by 2011. The first encyclopedia is from Microsoft. Microsoft founds this encyclopedia. It hires the best professional writers and editors to create the best articles on myriad topics. Everyone who participated is paid a lot of money to deliver the project on time. 


Then there is a second encyclopedia and it is created by a bunch of people as a hobby in their free time. They are not paid anything and often spend 30 hours a week to contribute their articles. To them, it is a labor of love without compensation. To them,  it is fun. Which of these encyclopedias will become the largest and most popular all over the world? 


On October 31, 2009, Microsoft closed their 16-year old encyclopedia MSN Encarta. At the same time, Wikipedia, the encyclopedia created by thousands of hobbyists, became the largest and most used encyclopedia around the world in 270 languages with millions of articles accessible to all of us. How did it happen? What was the motivation here? 


Motivation 3.0 is an intrinsic motivation system based on inherent satisfaction of the work, the task itself.


According to Daniel H. Pink and his life changing book “Drive – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” what motivated us when we were striving to survive fighting a saber-toothed tiger, was that our operating system was solely a biological one. He calls it system Motivation 1.0. It is a system that functions on the urges of eat, drink and procreate. 


 Then when societies evolved, and cooperation between human beings was needed, a new operating system emerged, Motivation 2.0. Biological drive often had to be restrained so we could function in the new complex society. A system of rewards and punishment was developed. If we worked hard and fulfilled our tasks, we got a carrot. If we failed to perform or deliver, we got a stick. It was an externally motivated system. 


“For as long as any of us can remember, we’ve configured our organizations and constructed our lives around its bedrock assumption: The way to improve performance, increase productivity, and encourage excellence is to reward the good and punish the bad,” says Pink.


In the 21st century, we are moving away from algorithmic work which can be outsourced or done by software, to heuristic work. A single set of instructions doesn’t work with heuristic work. A heuristic solves the problem or creates new ideas by themselves. According to McKinsey & Co. “in the United States, only 30 percent of job growth now comes from algorithmic work. A key reason: Routine work can be outsourced or automated; artistic, empathetic, nonroutine work, generally, cannot.” Thus, meet the new operating system, Motivation 3.0. 


Motivation 3.0 is an intrinsic motivation system based on inherent satisfaction of the work, the task itself. Think Sawyer effect. In Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” Tom is not thrilled with having the task of whitewashing Aunt Polly’s fence. Yet, when his friend Ben mocks him for his having to do a chore, Tom shows Ben that painting a fence is fun and it is a privilege. 


Ben thus wants to try a few strokes, giving Tom an apple for a privilege to “play” at painting the fence. Soon more boys join in and paint the fence for Tom. Pink says that “Twain extracts a key motivational principle, namely ‘that Work consists of whatever body is obliged to do and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.’” 


And play at work or elsewhere depends on what Pink calls Type I behavior, Intrinsic behavior. It concerns itself less with external rewards as Type X, extrinsic behavior, which operates on carrots and sticks. “Type I’s almost always outperform Type X’s in the long run” says Pink. 


Type I behavior doesn’t “disdain money.” If the employee compensation doesn’t meet the baseline as being just, that can lead to resentment, and thus, lack of productivity. Yet, when the baseline is met, intrinsically motivated people constantly renew their resources and create more. They and their organizations thrive. 


At the heart of Type I behavior are autonomy, mastery and purpose. 


Autonomy: Pink quotes CEO Jeff Gunther who says, “Management isn’t about walking around and seeing if people are in their offices.” It is about “creating conditions for people to do their best work.” That means giving people autonomy over four T’s: their task, their time, their technique and their team. William McKnight, 3M’s president and chairman in 1930s and 1940s said: “Hire good people and leave them alone.” 


Mastery: The more we love something we do, the better we strive to be at it. Motivation 3.0 is based on engagement, notes Pink. Motivation 2.0, was based on compliance. It is our human nature when we are engaged, to enter the flow and get better at what we do. Engagement leads to fulfillment, while compliance often leaves us empty and indignant. Mastery is an asymptote, a value that you get closer and closer to, but never quite reach. Hence, there is always room for growth. Mastery is grit and mastery is pain, but mastery is satisfaction. While compliance is often complacency. 


Purpose: What gives your life a meaning? Are you working for a “we team” oriented organization that wants to make a difference in the world? Pink says, “many entrepreneurs, executives, and investors are realizing that the best performing companies stand for something and contribute to the world.” 


TOMS is a shoe manufacturer that is a perfect example of such company. For every pair of shoes you buy from TOMS, another pair is given away to a child in a developing country. TOMS has a purpose of bringing us together and making us into benefactors. TOMS website explains its mission: “a for profit company with giving at its core.” 


And giving of ourselves what “Drive” invites us to do. Our satisfaction in life is not dictated by just rewards and punishment. The carrots and sticks operating system is outdated. This system needs major overhaul on personal and organizational levels for all of us to thrive. “Drive” invites us to look within and make changes on an intrinsic level first. After all, for all of us daily, the question is what motivates us to get up in the morning and what keeps us awake at night. Elie Wiesel said that the opposite of love is not hate. 


It is indifference. By reflecting, applying tools learned in Daniel Pink’s “Drive,” we can awaken joyfully to create more value for all of us and stay fulfilled while doing so. Creating better workers, better people and better companies, and thus, a better world. Awakening the Tom Sawyer effect in all of us. Where our work becomes fun, engaged play, we bring to the world the largest encyclopedia and more. 


 


“Drive. The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” by Daniel H. Pink 


Riverhead Books 


Published by the Penguin Group 


Astrid Ambroziak is editor of parknews.biz. She can be reached at astrid@parkingtoday.com.



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