The Puzzle Of Motivation | Dan Pink

Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories — and maybe, a way forward.

The Puzzle of Motivation | Dan Pink

Transcripts of the Video:

0:13
I need to make a confession at the outset here.
0:15
A little over 20 years ago, I did something that I regret,
0:21
something that I’m not particularly proud of.
0:25
Something that, in many ways, I wish no one would ever know,
0:28
but here I feel kind of obliged to reveal.
0:31
(Laughter)
0:34
In the late 1980s,
0:36
in a moment of youthful indiscretion,
0:39
I went to law school.
0:40
(Laughter)
0:45
In America, law is a professional degree:
0:48
after your university degree, you go on to law school.
0:50
When I got to law school,
0:53
I didn’t do very well.
0:55
To put it mildly, I didn’t do very well.
0:57
I, in fact, graduated in the part of my law school class
1:00
that made the top 90% possible.
1:04
(Laughter)
1:08
Thank you.
1:10
I never practiced law a day in my life;
1:14
I pretty much wasn’t allowed to.
1:16
(Laughter)
1:19
But today, against my better judgment,
1:22
against the advice of my own wife,
1:25
I want to try to dust off some of those legal skills —
1:29
what’s left of those legal skills.
1:31
I don’t want to tell you a story.
1:34
I want to make a case.
1:36
I want to make a hard-headed,
1:38
evidence-based,
1:40
dare I say lawyerly case,
1:43
for rethinking how we run our businesses.
1:47
So, ladies and gentlemen of the jury,
1:49
take a look at this.
1:51
This is called the candle problem.
1:53
Some of you might know it.
1:55
It’s created in 1945
1:57
by a psychologist named Karl Duncker.
1:59
He created this experiment
2:01
that is used in many other experiments in behavioral science.
2:04
And here’s how it works. Suppose I’m the experimenter.
2:07
I bring you into a room.
2:08
I give you a candle, some thumbtacks and some matches.
2:13
And I say to you,
2:14
“Your job is to attach the candle to the wall
2:17
so the wax doesn’t drip onto the table.”
2:20
Now what would you do?
2:21
Many people begin trying to thumbtack the candle to the wall.
2:25
Doesn’t work.
2:26
I saw somebody kind of make the motion over here —
2:31
some people have a great idea where they light the match,
2:34
melt the side of the candle, try to adhere it to the wall.
2:37
It’s an awesome idea. Doesn’t work.
2:40
And eventually, after five or ten minutes,
2:43
most people figure out the solution,
2:45
which you can see here.
2:46
The key is to overcome what’s called functional fixedness.
2:50
You look at that box and you see it only as a receptacle for the tacks.
2:54
But it can also have this other function,
2:56
as a platform for the candle.
2:59
The candle problem.
3:00
I want to tell you about an experiment using the candle problem,
3:04
done by a scientist named Sam Glucksberg,
3:06
who is now at Princeton University, US,
3:08
This shows the power of incentives.
3:12
He gathered his participants and said:
3:14
“I’m going to time you, how quickly you can solve this problem.”
3:18
To one group he said,
3:19
“I’m going to time you to establish norms,
3:22
averages for how long it typically takes someone to solve this sort of problem.”
3:26
To the second group he offered rewards.
3:29
He said, “If you’re in the top 25% of the fastest times,
3:33
you get five dollars.
3:35
If you’re the fastest of everyone we’re testing here today,
3:39
you get 20 dollars.”
3:41
Now this is several years ago, adjusted for inflation,
3:44
it’s a decent sum of money for a few minutes of work.
3:46
It’s a nice motivator.
3:48
Question:
3:49
How much faster did this group solve the problem?
3:53
Answer:
3:54
It took them, on average, three and a half minutes longer.
4:00
3.5 min longer.
4:01
This makes no sense, right?
4:03
I mean, I’m an American. I believe in free markets.
4:06
That’s not how it’s supposed to work, right?
4:09
(Laughter)
4:10
If you want people to perform better, you reward them. Right?
4:14
Bonuses, commissions, their own reality show.
4:17
Incentivize them.
4:20
That’s how business works.
4:21
But that’s not happening here.
4:23
You’ve got an incentive designed
4:25
to sharpen thinking and accelerate creativity,
4:28
and it does just the opposite.
4:31
It dulls thinking and blocks creativity.
4:34
What’s interesting about this experiment
4:36
is that it’s not an aberration.
4:37
This has been replicated over and over again
4:40
for nearly 40 years.
4:43
These contingent motivators —
4:46
if you do this, then you get that —
4:48
work in some circumstances.
4:50
But for a lot of tasks, they actually either don’t work
4:53
or, often, they do harm.
4:56
This is one of the most robust findings in social science,
5:02
and also one of the most ignored.
5:05
I spent the last couple of years
5:06
looking at the science of human motivation,
5:09
particularly the dynamics of extrinsic motivators
5:11
and intrinsic motivators.
5:13
And I’m telling you, it’s not even close.
5:15
If you look at the science, there is a mismatch
5:17
between what science knows
5:19
and what business does.
5:21
What’s alarming here is that our business operating system —
5:24
think of the set of assumptions and protocols beneath our businesses,
5:27
how we motivate people, how we apply our human resources–
5:32
it’s built entirely around these extrinsic motivators,
5:35
around carrots and sticks.
5:37
That’s actually fine for many kinds of 20th century tasks.
5:41
But for 21st century tasks,
5:43
that mechanistic, reward-and-punishment approach
5:47
doesn’t work,
5:49
often doesn’t work,
5:50
and often does harm.
5:51
Let me show you.
5:52
Glucksberg did another similar experiment,
5:56
he presented the problem in a slightly different way,
5:58
like this up here.
6:00
Attach the candle to the wall so the wax doesn’t drip onto the table.
6:03
Same deal. You: we’re timing for norms.
6:06
You: we’re incentivizing.
6:08
What happened this time?
6:11
This time, the incentivized group kicked the other group’s butt.
6:17
Why?
6:19
Because when the tacks are out of the box,
6:21
it’s pretty easy isn’t it?
6:25
(Laughter)
6:27
If-then rewards work really well for those sorts of tasks,
6:32
where there is a simple set of rules
6:34
and a clear destination to go to.
6:37
Rewards, by their very nature,
6:39
narrow our focus, concentrate the mind;
6:41
that’s why they work in so many cases.
6:43
So, for tasks like this,
6:45
a narrow focus, where you just see the goal right there,
6:48
zoom straight ahead to it,
6:50
they work really well.
6:52
But for the real candle problem,
6:54
you don’t want to be looking like this.
6:56
The solution is on the periphery. You want to be looking around.
6:59
That reward actually narrows our focus
7:02
and restricts our possibility.
7:04
Let me tell you why this is so important.
7:07
In western Europe,
7:10
in many parts of Asia,
7:11
in North America, in Australia,
7:14
white-collar workers are doing less of this kind of work,
7:17
and more of this kind of work.
7:22
That routine, rule-based, left-brain work —
7:25
certain kinds of accounting, financial analysis,
7:27
computer programming —
7:29
has become fairly easy to outsource,
7:31
fairly easy to automate.
7:33
Software can do it faster.
7:35
Low-cost providers can do it cheaper.
7:38
So what really matters
7:41
are the more right-brained creative, conceptual kinds of abilities.
7:45
Think about your own work.
7:48
Think about your own work.
7:51
Are the problems that you face,
7:52
or even the problems we’ve been talking about here,
7:55
do they have a clear set of rules,
7:58
and a single solution?
7:59
No. The rules are mystifying.
8:02
The solution, if it exists at all,
8:04
is surprising and not obvious.
8:07
Everybody in this room
8:09
is dealing with their own version of the candle problem.
8:14
And for candle problems of any kind,
8:17
in any field,
8:19
those if-then rewards,
8:22
the things around which we’ve built so many of our businesses,
8:26
don’t work!
8:28
It makes me crazy.
8:30
And here’s the thing.
8:32
This is not a feeling.
8:35
Okay? I’m a lawyer; I don’t believe in feelings.
8:38
This is not a philosophy.
8:42
I’m an American; I don’t believe in philosophy.
8:44
(Laughter)
8:47
This is a fact —
8:50
or, as we say in my hometown of Washington, D.C.,
8:52
a true fact.
8:54
(Laughter)
8:57
(Applause)
9:00
Let me give you an example.
9:02
Let me marshal the evidence here.
9:04
I’m not telling a story, I’m making a case.
9:06
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, some evidence:
9:08
Dan Ariely, one of the great economists of our time,
9:11
he and three colleagues did a study of some MIT students.
9:15
They gave these MIT students a bunch of games,
9:18
games that involved creativity,
9:20
and motor skills, and concentration.
9:22
And the offered them, for performance,
9:24
three levels of rewards:
9:26
small reward, medium reward, large reward.
9:30
If you do really well you get the large reward, on down.
9:35
What happened?
9:36
As long as the task involved only mechanical skill
9:39
bonuses worked as they would be expected:
9:41
the higher the pay, the better the performance.
9:44
Okay?
9:46
But once the task called for even rudimentary cognitive skill,
9:51
a larger reward led to poorer performance.
9:57
Then they said,
9:58
“Let’s see if there’s any cultural bias here.
10:00
Let’s go to Madurai, India and test it.”
10:02
Standard of living is lower.
10:04
In Madurai, a reward that is modest in North American standards,
10:07
is more meaningful there.
10:09
Same deal. A bunch of games, three levels of rewards.
10:13
What happens?
10:15
People offered the medium level of rewards
10:18
did no better than people offered the small rewards.
10:20
But this time, people offered the highest rewards,
10:25
they did the worst of all.
10:28
In eight of the nine tasks we examined across three experiments,
10:32
higher incentives led to worse performance.
10:37
Is this some kind of touchy-feely socialist conspiracy going on here?
10:43
No, these are economists from MIT,
10:46
from Carnegie Mellon, from the University of Chicago.
10:49
Do you know who sponsored this research?
10:51
The Federal Reserve Bank of the United States.
10:55
That’s the American experience.
10:57
Let’s go across the pond to the London School of Economics,
11:00
LSE, London School of Economics,
11:03
alma mater of eleven Nobel Laureates in economics.
11:06
Training ground for great economic thinkers
11:09
like George Soros, and Friedrich Hayek,
11:12
and Mick Jagger.
11:13
(Laughter)
11:14
Last month,
11:16
just last month,
11:18
economists at LSE looked at 51 studies
11:21
of pay-for-performance plans, inside of companies.
11:24
Here’s what they said:
11:25
“We find that financial incentives
11:27
can result in a negative impact on overall performance.”
11:32
There is a mismatch between what science knows
11:36
and what business does.
11:38
And what worries me, as we stand here in the rubble
11:41
of the economic collapse,
11:43
is that too many organizations are making their decisions,
11:47
their policies about talent and people,
11:49
based on assumptions that are outdated,
11:53
unexamined,
11:54
and rooted more in folklore than in science.
11:58
And if we really want to get out of this economic mess,
12:01
if we really want high performance
12:03
on those definitional tasks of the 21st century,
12:05
the solution is not to do more of the wrong things,
12:11
to entice people with a sweeter carrot,
12:14
or threaten them with a sharper stick.
12:16
We need a whole new approach.
12:18
The good news is that the scientists
12:20
who’ve been studying motivation have given us this new approach.
12:23
It’s built much more around intrinsic motivation.
12:26
Around the desire to do things because they matter,
12:28
because we like it, they’re interesting, or part of something important.
12:32
And to my mind, that new operating system for our businesses
12:36
revolves around three elements:
12:37
autonomy, mastery and purpose.
12:41
Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives.
12:44
Mastery: the desire to get better and better at something that matters.
12:48
Purpose: the yearning to do what we do
12:51
in the service of something larger than ourselves.
12:54
These are the building blocks of an entirely new operating system
12:57
for our businesses.
12:59
I want to talk today only about autonomy.
13:03
In the 20th century, we came up with this idea of management.
13:06
Management did not emanate from nature.
13:08
Management is not a tree, it’s a television set.
13:12
Somebody invented it.
13:14
It doesn’t mean it’s going to work forever.
13:16
Management is great.
13:18
Traditional notions of management are great
13:20
if you want compliance.
13:22
But if you want engagement, self-direction works better.
13:25
Some examples of some kind of radical notions of self-direction.
13:29
You don’t see a lot of it,
13:32
but you see the first stirrings of something really interesting going on,
13:35
what it means is paying people adequately and fairly, absolutely —
13:39
getting the issue of money off the table,
13:41
and then giving people lots of autonomy.
13:43
Some examples.
13:45
How many of you have heard of the company Atlassian?
13:49
It looks like less than half.
13:51
(Laughter)
13:52
Atlassian is an Australian software company.
13:57
And they do something incredibly cool.
13:59
A few times a year they tell their engineers,
14:01
“Go for the next 24 hours and work on anything you want,
14:05
as long as it’s not part of your regular job.
14:08
Work on anything you want.”
14:09
Engineers use this time to come up with a cool patch for code,
14:13
come up with an elegant hack.
14:14
Then they present all of the stuff that they’ve developed
14:17
to their teammates, to the rest of the company,
14:20
in this wild and woolly all-hands meeting at the end of the day.
14:24
Being Australians, everybody has a beer.
14:26
They call them FedEx Days.
14:29
Why?
14:31
Because you have to deliver something overnight.
14:34
It’s pretty; not bad.
14:36
It’s a huge trademark violation, but it’s pretty clever.
14:39
(Laughter)
14:40
That one day of intense autonomy
14:42
has produced a whole array of software fixes
14:44
that might never have existed.
14:46
It’s worked so well that Atlassian has taken it to the next level
14:49
with 20% time —
14:50
done, famously, at Google —
14:52
where engineers can spend 20% of their time
14:54
working on anything they want.
14:56
They have autonomy over their time,
14:58
their task, their team, their technique.
15:00
Radical amounts of autonomy.
15:02
And at Google, as many of you know,
15:06
about half of the new products in a typical year
15:08
are birthed during that 20% time:
15:11
things like Gmail, Orkut, Google News.
15:14
Let me give you an even more radical example of it:
15:17
something called the Results Only Work Environment (the ROWE),
15:21
created by two American consultants,
15:23
in place at a dozen companies around North America.
15:25
In a ROWE people don’t have schedules.
15:29
They show up when they want.
15:31
They don’t have to be in the office at a certain time, or any time.
15:35
They just have to get their work done.
15:37
How they do it, when they do it, where they do it, is totally up to them.
15:42
Meetings in these kinds of environments are optional.
15:47
What happens?
15:48
Almost across the board,
15:50
productivity goes up, worker engagement goes up,
15:53
worker satisfaction goes up, turnover goes down.
15:57
Autonomy, mastery and purpose,
15:59
the building blocks of a new way of doing things.
16:01
Some of you might look at this and say,
16:04
“Hmm, that sounds nice, but it’s Utopian.”
16:07
And I say, “Nope.
16:10
I have proof.”
16:12
The mid-1990s, Microsoft started an encyclopedia called Encarta.
16:16
They had deployed all the right incentives,
16:19
They paid professionals to write and edit thousands of articles.
16:23
Well-compensated managers oversaw the whole thing
16:25
to make sure it came in on budget and on time.
16:30
A few years later, another encyclopedia got started.
16:32
Different model, right?
16:35
Do it for fun.
16:37
No one gets paid a cent, or a euro or a yen.
16:41
Do it because you like to do it.
16:43
Just 10 years ago,
16:45
if you had gone to an economist, anywhere,
16:47
“Hey, I’ve got these two different models for creating an encyclopedia.
16:51
If they went head to head, who would win?”
16:53
10 years ago you could not have found a single sober economist
16:57
anywhere on planet Earth
16:59
who would have predicted the Wikipedia model.
17:02
This is the titanic battle between these two approaches.
17:05
This is the Ali-Frazier of motivation, right?
17:08
This is the Thrilla in Manila.
17:10
Intrinsic motivators versus extrinsic motivators.
17:13
Autonomy, mastery and purpose,
17:15
versus carrot and sticks, and who wins?
17:17
Intrinsic motivation, autonomy, mastery and purpose, in a knockout.
17:21
Let me wrap up.
17:24
There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does.
17:28
Here is what science knows.
17:29
One: Those 20th century rewards,
17:31
those motivators we think are a natural part of business,
17:34
do work, but only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances.
17:38
Two: Those if-then rewards often destroy creativity.
17:42
Three: The secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments,
17:46
but that unseen intrinsic drive–
17:48
the drive to do things for their own sake.
17:51
The drive to do things cause they matter.
17:53
And here’s the best part.
17:55
We already know this.
17:56
The science confirms what we know in our hearts.
17:58
So, if we repair this mismatch between science and business,
18:03
if we bring our motivation, notions of motivation
18:06
into the 21st century,
18:08
if we get past this lazy, dangerous, ideology
18:12
of carrots and sticks,
18:14
we can strengthen our businesses,
18:17
we can solve a lot of those candle problems,
18:19
and maybe, maybe —
18:24
we can change the world.
18:25
I rest my case.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *