On Friday night, January 22nd, I had the chance to hear Daniel Pink speak about the principles he shared in his new book, Drive. He began the evening by directly illustrating what motivates us. I listened through the prism of my roles as an educator and a coach.
As you already know, we are all motivated by a biological drive. He illustrated this by offering a sack dinner to anyone in the audience, who hadn’t eaten. As you guessed, he found someone, who eagerly took him up on his offer. A young man bolted to the stage to show that the biological need to eat and drink was definitely enough to get him out of his seat. Sex was also mentioned as a biological motivator with giggles from the audience validating Pink’s statement.
In order to illustrate another motive that “Drives” human behavior, Pink offered a woman $10.00 to parade around the stage and hold the book for 1 minute. While the lady in the front row hesitated, another Texas lady decided that she wanted that $10.00 reward. She stood on the stage in front of an audience of strangers proudly holding the book Drive, so everyone could see the beautiful front cover for one minute. Obviously, this certainly showed how “rewards and punishment” is a 2nd motive for human behavior. A reward of $10 didn’t ring one gal’s chimes, but another woman was happy to get the money. If she hadn’t come forward, as a coach looking for extra cash to invest in my business, I admit that I might have eventually jumped at the offer. While teens will do anything to avoid embarrassment, my 18 year old niece had that look in her eye that money might have trumped the concern about embarrassment.
Obviously, Dan Pink didn’t come to tell us what we already knew. The surprise in the book, which was the focus of his lecture, was the fact that Intrinsic (Inner Motivation) is the primary form of human motivation. As a teacher, I thought about all the money I spent on stickers, candy :-(, and monthly videos to inspire kids to write. Yes, they wrote, but my greatest success with my middle school students was when I arranged for students to write about accidents at an amusement park.
Given that people work harder and produce better work when they’re curious, engaged and connected in relationship, I understand why this assignment hit a nerve with my students. They worked in teams and were clearly curious about why the local parks didn’t mention anything about their accident ratings on their website. When I asked them to determine “Why?”, they were motivated to find the answers on their own. These are students, who had diagnoses of attention deficit disorder and learning disabilities. The content of their reports was some of the best work any of my special education classes produced.
I’d love to hear your comments regarding intrinsic motivation. What are the implications for the classroom?
Your ideas are always welcome…