NARRATOR: Daniel Pink is a leading business writer and visionary who thinks deeply about America's workforce and our increasingly complex workplace. He appears regularly on network television and radio news shows and was the chief speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore and an aide to US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. His latest book is Drive, the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. In it, Pink uses 40 years of behavioral science to challenge the conventional wisdom about human motivation and offer a more effective path to high performance.
DANIEL PINK: Today, I want to talk about human motivation, in particular, the science of human motivation. Because it's really, truly endlessly interesting. And those of you who are working on degrees in education, to some extent in management, as well-- probably, in public health in addition to that, have probably gotten maybe a smattering of this.
The subject of human motivation, of why we do what we do, is so endlessly fascinating. I want to tell you a little bit about that and then tell you some things that I think might surprise you about that and then offer some-- I think some guidance that could be useful in both sides of your work, both in your academic research, but also in your day-to-day work lives. Three things that help lead to enduring motivation and performance, particularly on more creative conceptual tasks-- they are autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
Let's go to autonomy. Autonomy is our desire to be self-directed. The better pathway to engagement is self-direction, self-direction. And there's some interesting examples of management taking a slightly different form in prizing self-direction as a pathway to innovation and high performance.
This is a software company in Australia. And they do something really cool. Once a quarter, they say to their software developers, on a Thursday afternoon, go work on anything you want.
Do it any way you want. Do it with whomever you want. The only thing we ask is that on Friday afternoon, you show what you've created to the rest of the team in this fun Friday afternoon meeting, OK?
They call these things FedEx days. Why? Because you have to deliver something overnight. [LAUGHTER] It turns out that this one day of intense, undiluted autonomy has led to a whole array of fixes for existing products, a whole array of ideas for new products that had otherwise never emerged.
Let's go to the next one-- autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Mastery is our desire to get better at stuff. We like to get better at stuff because we like to get better at stuff. It's inherently rewarding. It's our own reward.
Let me give you one piece of evidence on this, some research out of Harvard Business School. A really terrific scholar named Teresa Amabile did this research. She asked people at work each day to write down their day-to-day mood, their day-to-day levels of satisfaction, engagement, motivation, attachment to the company, and so forth.
You report your mental state each day. You look at the patterns here, when are people most engaged and most motivated? Here's what she says. The key to motivation doesn't depend on elaborate incentive systems. In fact, the people in her study rarely mentioned incentives.
The most motivating thing at work, what is it? Making progress in one's work. The days that people were making progress, even small progress, usually small progress, were the days that people felt most alive as human beings.
But they're also the day that people felt most motivated, most engaged, most loyal to the company. Now, for those of you who are managers, this is really important to understand. Because you can motivate people, you can help people find their motivation, by helping people see their progress, by celebrating progress-- hugely motivating aspects.
Let's go to the last and final one, purpose. We want to be part of something larger than ourselves. All right? That's part of what it is to be human.
And I think that a lot of times in private organization, private sector organizations, the rallying cry is, let's raise earnings per share $0.02 this quarter. I might be different, but that's not the kind of rallying cry that gets me out of bed in the morning racing to work to do something amazing. I think people want something bigger than that. And so the organizations and the people who really function at a high level are those who have some kind of animating purpose beyond pure profit.
One of the things that I've learned is that many times, when I ask myself at the end of the day, was I better today than yesterday-- many times, unfortunately, the answer is no. It really is. But what I've also found, and I find this so interesting, is that the answer is rarely no two days in a row. Because if I say no on a Tuesday night, I'm just a little bit ticked off. And I find myself waking up with a little bit more resolve on Wednesday morning.
So I encourage you to try this. What's my sentence, and was it better today than yesterday? And I think if you do those two things, you can start orienting your life toward a broader purpose.
And more important, I just want to leave you with one thing. And I think it's actually in the ethic of Waldon itself. And I think it's in the ethic of people who've taken time out of the middle of their careers to pursue higher learning and to make the world a better place, which is that human beings aren't horses. We're more complex than that. We respond to more than the sting of a stick or the sweetness of a carrot.
And if you start with the premise that all of us are meant to be active and engaged, not consigned to be passive and inert, I think that leads us to a better place. I think it leads us to a better, more prosperous companies. But I also think in its way, it leads us to just a plain, old, better world. So for helping make that world, I thank you very much.