TEDTalks: The Puzzle of Motivation

Have you read any books by Daniel Pink? He’s authored several titles on reshaping work, employee behavior, and the new workplace, including Drive, To Sell is Human, and Free Agent Nation. I’d recommend his work for your business bookshelf.

Pink’s 2009 TEDTalk, “The Puzzle of Motivation,” really got me thinking about my own employees in terms of engagement and getting the best, most creative work out of each of my employees. We are, after all, a knowledge firm: our brains are what keep us in business. So I want those brains to be creative, motivated, and happy.

You should definitely view the entire TEDTalk, but I’d summarize Pink’s key points as follows:

  • There’s a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. Science knows is that external motivators don’t work, and they often do harm.
  • Extrinsic rewards like higher pay work well only for those tasks that are easy, where there are a simple set of rules and a straightforward solution.
  • Most of today’s problems are not simple and straightforward. Solutions to today’s problems are found on the periphery, and you need creative, open minds to find those solutions.
  • Business needs a new operating system for employee motivation that focuses on INTRINSIC rewards to find creative solutions. This new system revolves an employee’s:
    • Autonomy
    • Mastery
    • Purpose

Pink concludes by focusing on autonomy, noting that management works great if you want your employees to comply, but it’s autonomy that will result in true engagement and creativity. He cites several companies that have moved to a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), where employees have no schedules; they just have to get their work done. Research indicates that ROWEs result in higher worker productivity, engagement, and satisfaction.

I’m excited to announce that Fine Point Consulting is in training to be a ROWE. It will take a few months, and I’m sure there are things we’re going to have to “untrain” ourselves to do. Our clients will continue to be our first priority, and it’s our belief that our new autonomy, mastery, and sense of purpose will allow us to serve them even better.

We plan to blog about our ROWE rollout, so stay tuned. It should be an interesting ride.