DRiVE – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

I’m just finishing up reading through a book called “DRiVE – The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Daniel H Pink. It’s a quick read and presents some great scientific studies as little stories.

It was long assumed that extrinsic motivation was required for any task (e.g. a mouse will go through a maze to find cheese. A monkey will solve a puzzle for food and praise. A mapper will implement Portal to a new Org Unit for praise and satisfactory scores on the yearly review).
This turned out to not be true at all. Mundane, difficult, boring tasks can be goaded with rewards and punishments, absolutely. But rewards and punishments also can make creative, fun tasks into work instead. What’s more, the promise of extrinsic rewards has been proven in many studies to decrease creative & problem-solving abilities… Which is most of our work as GIS Analysts at an electric company.

Many newer, highly successful business models now rely on the fact that people are intrinsically motivated to do their jobs! (Google, Best Buy when it was booming, Amazon, some successful startups, etc.) People in this framework require pay that is competitive with the market, people need to live.  But there are more important factors in employee productivity and turnover rates. According to Pink, the Three Elements employees need are:

  1. Autonomy – The ability to choose some things about work; could be hours, location, type of work, etc. Notably: many companies have had success (Google, for example) in implementing time for employees to work on any project they wanted, no matter how unrelated it was to their typical work. Other companies have become ROWE’s – Results Only Work Environments
  2. Mastery – Some have called this the state of “Flow”. Surfing. Having your “head in the game” because the game challenges you and is what you love. You learn a bit more every week. This doesn’t have to be your job but you do have to get into the state of flow as often as possible. This is typically exercise for me. I work far better when I exercise rigorously & regularly… Which is strange because it has nothing to do with anything I do at my job. At all.
  3. Purpose – One member on my GIS Team at work has this down. She creates these great Story Maps for the RSJI department. The maps she makes for that department are a particular work of art; they are very fulfilling to her. One thing most teams could do to promote greater purpose in work is to set goals – with solid, borderline emotional reasons behind the goals.

The rest of the book is a tool set for implementing these big ideas into your life and workplace. I highly recommend the read if you get the opportunity! Just for fun 🙂

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