Intrinsic Motivation is a Theme of the Future: Daniel Pink Part II

cali-freeway-01It’s my pleasure to share more of the information from Daniel Pink’s lecture on Pink from his lecture in Dallas on Friday night. This is the 2nd part of highlights from his presentation, which captivated all of us.   This fresh insight puts myths about motivation where they belong:  In the Past  (IMHO)

If you’ve ever driven on CA freeways, it is no surprise that punishment is not a huge motivator for human behavior.  Yes, we pay tickets for talking on our phones, speeding, etc.,   Yet, after renting a car at LAX, I continue to see the same  motivation to “Drive”, which  is fueled by the need to get to wherever you’re going in the most creative way possible.

Even a nice letter from the CA Department of Motor Vehicles for being an incredible driver doesn’t make a difference.   To be honest receiving a  “Dear Ms. Lowry, Thank you for respecting our traffic laws while you were visiting our Golden State” probably wouldn’t motivate me to model exemplary driving either.   People are busy and stressed and want to do whatever it takes to save time to be with family/friends/ clients or whoever and whatever in the most creative innovative ways possible.

I was a resident and know several escape routes to avoid traffic.  My motivation was all about my need to accomplish my own preset goals…unless I needed to make a pit stop, which is obviously a biological motivator.  :-)  Getting to Santa Monica to meet friends for dinner is pure intrinsic social motivation for people like me. It’s all about the friends and not the salad, which would be biological.  I did and will continue to find a way to get there to enjoy a hang out night with friends and defy the odds of arriving an hour late via the freeways.

My comments are based on the lecture presented by Daniel Pink in relation to his new book, Drive.    After recycling his words in my mind through my experiences as a parent and educator, it was truly fascinating to hear about three findings based on studies.  You may find these results surprising.   As the cover of his book states, these conclusions support the “The Surprising Truth of What Motivates Us”-Intrinsic Motivation……Findings from the studies were as follows:

When students from MIT in  Cambridge, MA were asked to do tasks involving rudimentary (boring) cognitive skills, it seems that the performance was poorer even when higher reward incentives were offered.  The same findings were also found when the same study was repeated in India.  In India, where the quality of life is really lacking, it appears that higher incentives actually led to poorer performance.  “Creative Thinking was valued higher than rewards”.   Hmm…my “teacher wired mind” did an Daniel-Pink-Drive-768817exorcist spin on that note.
In regards to a study regarding art…commissioned work was rated as less creative as non-commissioned work.   Some artists make huge big bucks for their commissioned work.   Yet,  when expectations and explicit instructions were taken away artists seemed to be more creative.
Note to self and all educators:   (Do I really need to give detailed rubrics for each assignment to motivate my graduate students to produce great work?   Again, I think that I may have wasted my time by designing model detailed rubrics.) Rubrics offer a way for students to compare their work with the expectations for making a good grade on an assignment.      I agree they need to learn the basics, but is there room for freedom to learn to think as students learn?
Interviews of students, who attended an art and design school, determined that those, who chose to attend for external factors (pressure from family, need to do something, need to earn money eventually, etc.) ended up quitting.   However, students, who really wanted to be there (intrinsic motivator) usually finished the program and were successful artists.   The bottom line according to Pink was that “Those, who are least likely to pursue extrinsic rewards usually receive them.”

These findings defy what we’ve been led to believe about human behavior.  I’ve taught the course on behavior management for three different Universities in the Dept. of Education.   I’m truly humbled by this information and certainly want to rewind the tape.

Yes, external rewards do work.   However, they aren’t the chief motivator for human behavior.   Every course I taught had an objective (determined by the powers that be) related to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.   Survival and safety are on the low rungs of our basic needs, so we know why “carrots and sticks” seem like a good idea.   However, pitching “Jolly Ranchers” to students to encourage them to participate in class discussions really short changed the students.   Mia culpa to the 3rd power!

The results are in folk and Dan Pink put the pieces together to defy the myth that rewards and punishment are the key to human motivation.    Think about your own internal drive.   Based on what fuels your passion do you believe that humans were meant to be active and engaged and not passive.    This is certainly true for my life.  How about your life?

I would appreciate your feedback on Intrinsic Motivation as it relates to business or education.   Why do so many people want to “Escape from Cubicle Nation?”   Why do entrepreneurs stayed fueled to hang in there even when the money isn’t coming in faster than we can deposit it?   Does this new information on motivation translate to a different way to raise our children?

As always, I love your comments.

Mary Ann

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  2. Jesse Goings:

    wonderful themes on here. Thanks

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  7. Thomas Liberty:

    My husband and I feel the same way. It’s always the little man

  8. Mary Ann:

    You’re welcome everyone. I’m not sure why the comments were “cut off”. When I have a chance to hear an inspiring speaker, I like the opportunity to share the main highlights with my blog readers.


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