Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
My friend recently approached me with a problem, He’s currently teaching a class on innovation to a group of eighth-grade students and it’s not going well, The topic of innovation sounds pretty interesting to me, but his students don’t seem to share my enthusiasm he tells me that many of his eighth grade students are visibly disengaged and unmotivated to learn the topic. My friend has tried traditional carrot and stick incentives like promising his students good grades if they pay attention or warning his students that if they don’t pay attention they will fail the class and fail to get into grade 9 with the rest of their friends, but these carrot and stick incentives only motivated students for a few minutes before they go back to being disengaged and unmotivated to learn so what should my friend do?
To find the answer, I picked up the book DRIVE in the book author Daniel pink details dozens of studies that reveal a rather shocking finding. If you try to motivate others with IF-THEN sentences like if you do X i’ll reward you with Y, you will strip any enjoyment out of the process of learning or working on hard problems, In other words, if my friend continues to present carrot and stick incentives he will do serious harm to a student’s natural willingness to learn and enjoy the process. This counter intuitive finding explains why many people who decide to turn their passion into a business like becoming a surfing instructor and end up focusing primarily on the money end up killing their original passion and soon hate what they once loved doing for fun rather than focusing on incentives that will kill his students natural willingness to learn my friend should amplify his students intrinsic drive for learning by amplifying his students intrinsic Drive his students will be more motivated to learn and more engaged during class. Author Daniel pink has uncovered three primary methods for amplifying intrinsic drivers by understanding these three drivers my friend just might find a way to get his students engaged and motivated to learn.
In 2002 Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon Brooks two university graduates from Australia wanted nothing more than to work for themselves. So with ten thousand dollars in self funding they started a software enterprise company called “Atlassian” over the years Mike and Scott grew the company and hired teams of programmers they were experiencing modern success but they weren’t content they wanted to improve their product and make it last in in to a major player in a software enterprise market so they tried an experiment that they hope would spark innovation they gave each other salary programmers one day of complete freedom where they could work on whatever problem they wanted as long as they presented their results to the team the following day at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday the Atlassian in programmer started writing whatever code they wanted with whomever they wanted many of the programmers work through the night then at 4 p.m. on Friday all the programmers gathered in a conference room with beer and chocolate cake on the table and presented the results to the group this crazy experiment led to crazy good results the programmers fueled by a sense of freedom instead of cash incentives came up with several new product ideas and dozens of creative solutions to existing problems.
If my friend wants his students to get motivated to learn his mandatory innovation class he should take a page out of Atlassian’s book and spark a sense of autonomy. my friend could set aside one class a week and allow his students to work on an innovation project of their choice he could give them tools, information, supplies and let them choose a project that they want to work on with a team they want to work with. The only condition would be that they need to use the lessons taught in the class, and they need to present their learning to the rest of the class at the end of the year. Carving out a small amount of freedom and flexibility within a rigid framework can spark a surprising amount of Drive and creativity.
Most companies do a terrible job conducting performance reviews but not green cargo. Green cargo is a huge state-owned shipping company in Sweden in 2003 Stephen Faulk joined the Green cargo executive team and started to overhaul in Green cargos performance review process instead of having managers and employees meet once a year to discuss an employee’s performance, Green cargo managers are required to meet with their employees once a month for an intense hour-long one-on-one coaching session during a performance review a manager must get a sense whether their employee is overwhelmed or underwhelmed with their current work assignment and then find a way to craft a Goldilocks work assignments for that employee, A Goldilocks work assignment is an assignment that’s not too hard or not too easy but just right above their current skill level if an employee can find this Goldilocks work zone between boredom and anxiety that employee is more likely to be engaged on the task at hand and feel a sense of mastery, so what effect did Green cargos new performance review system have after a few months there was a noticeable increase in employee engagement and after two years of these performance reviews green cargo became profitable for the first time in 125 years if my friend wants to increase the engagement of his students he should take a page out of Green cargos playbook each week he could make time to sit down with each of his students one on one and adjust the difficulty level on each of their assignments if a student finds an assignment too hard my friend could adjust their next assignment by removing a question or two if a student finds an assignments who easy my friend could get them to teach a struggling student the material to challenge our understanding and allow other students to catch up if he can get his students in a Goldilocks work zone on each of their assignments he will spark the intrinsic drive for mastery and increase their overall engagement.
When Facebook’s chief operating officer sheryl sandberg starts a meeting at facebook she always starts by stating the team’s mission in a recent interview she said you have to repeat your mission and your purpose over and over and over and sometimes you’re like well doesn’t everyone already know this it doesn’t matter starting out the meetings with this is Facebook’s mission this is instagrams mission and this is why whatsapp exists is critical when Sheryl Sandberg starts her meetings by stating the mission she’s sparking the third intrinsic driver a sense of purpose purpose is the reason organizations like Doctors Without Borders can get highly skilled doctors to willingly travel to poor villages around the world live in harsh conditions and get paid very little money to do so they do this because it fills them with a sense of purpose that comes from helping others. If my friend wants to spark the intrinsic Drive of purpose he should introduce each topic by explaining how learning the topic will benefit people he cares about or a massive amount of people he could say learning this innovation lesson will allow you to contribute more to your project team or this innovation principle is the same one Mark Zuckerberg used to build a product that billions of people love and use every day. So if my friend wants his students to be more engaged in class and if we want our teams to be more engaged on hard problems we need to stop offering incentives like bonuses or good grades or threatening punishment for non-compliance and start creating a sense of autonomy, mastery and purpose. that was the core message that I gather from drive by Daniel pink it’s essential reading if you’re trying to get others or yourself more motivated to work on complex problems I highly recommend it.