Sunday, September 14, 2014

Could Daniel Pink have it wrong? PART 1

Provocative title, eh?  If you’ve read Daniel Pink’s book “Drive” you’ve been introduced to one of the many theories of motivation.  If you haven’t read it, buy the book for goodness sakes.  It’s great! If you need more convincing, see the youtube video it’s wonderful.

There are a lot of motivational theories.  You can look at them in Wikipedia.  Daniel Pink seems to base his work on the self-determination theory of motivation applied to knowledge workers.  To sum “Drive” up he says that motivation in knowledge work is driven by autonomy, meaning, and mastery. 

Of course there’s a lot of supporting information in the book and video, but he refutes the idea that the carrot and the stick technique of motivation works for knowledge workers. I think he’s right.   The problem comes when people don’t pay close attention to what these motivational factors really mean or the prerequisites for these motivational factors to kick in.

Let’s look at very first assumption that Mr. Pink makes in the beginning of the book:  once money is taken off the table as a motivator then autonomy, meaning, and mastery come into play.  I’ve seen companies ignore the pay issue completely and jump right into the trilogy of motivators, we don’t have to pay as much as the next company.  It doesn’t work that way, just read about Motivation Crowd Theory.  If an organization does anything less than removing money as a motivator, the self-determination theory of motivation doesn’t work: other motivational theories will explain a person’s behavior. Lack of adequate pay or even small raises leads to a loss in the feeling of meaning and can directly lead to employee moral issues.

Even if you’ve got the foundation set, there are glaring ways to misinterpret the application of autonomy, meaning, and mastery.  In part two of this blog, I’ll be pointing out where the three factors can be used in such a way as to have the opposite of positive motivation.