Carrots and Sticks Must Die

This blog post is a quick book review with related comments for Daniel Pink’s Drive. I have been studying psychology books in this genre because I take a personal interest in motivation for people (and for people working in organizations). In fact, I have written songs that are related to this theme.

I have been increasingly appreciative of books that are highly scientific, quote controlled experiments and leverage peer-reviewed papers. This is because there is a lot of written information about motivation techniques which is speculative and/or steeped in tradition.

I’ll define “steeped in tradition” as something that I have personally experienced. I worked in several organizations where the “carrot and stick” method of motivation was highly dominant and was pursued to get more out of their people. In other words, “more money” or “IF you do this, THEN you get that.”

What the book explains scientifically is that this traditional way of engaging employees only works for menial / mechanical / repetitive tasks — and even then, can eventually peter out. If a person has real responsibilities, is required to think creatively, needs to problem solve, etc. — not only does it have a non-effect past a very short term, but it can in fact have a negative effect on the individual’s performance!

How can a negative effect even be possible? Virtually every business in the Western world seems to think compensation is the gateway to employee motivation. Virtually every business is incorrect. The same problem doesn’t just apply to employees: it can apply to your family members or friends (if you try to motivate them).

Once “competitive” compensation is given to an employee (which brings a person into neutral motivation), Pink offers the 3 real motivators:

1. Autonomy (you have control over what you do and when you do it)
2. Mastery (you are becoming better and better at something)
3. Purpose (you are working on something that has a greater meaning to you)

I realized that these real motivators are sorely lacking in a lot of jobs. Maybe you have some Purpose working for a hospital, but do you get to choose what you do and are you getting better at it regularly? It helps me understand why employee retention or motivating your teenager can be such a challenge.

The book explains much more in an engaging way.

Book me (Dyniss) to engage your audience with interactive songs.

carrot stick string bait motivation

“If / then” rewards cause limited or negative motivation. Do you know the 3 real motivators? Image “The Bait” via Creative Commons via Flickr via nist6dh.