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How can you succeed in the contemporary economy where creativity and conceptual work are increasingly valued? How do you motivate your employees to contribute their best to the company's goals?
The answer to both questions is to recognize that traditional notions of management—using carrots and sticks to motivate workers—are outdated. People do their best creative work when their intrinsic motivation is awakened.
Drive explains the new insights into human motivation uncovered by behavioral scientists and shows how you can tap into the human desire for autonomy and purpose to transform how you live and work.
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Most businesses have yet to catch up on the insights into human motivation that have been uncovered by behavioral scientists in recent years. The traditional business view focuses on Type X behavior, using external rewards and punishments to motivate workers. But today's economy increasingly calls for creative and heuristic forms of work that require Type I behavior that is focused on active and engaged employees with autonomy and a sense of purpose. This is Motivation 3.0, appealing to our intrinsic self-motivation. The most forward-thinking companies recognize the need to embrace this human drive and pursue profit as a catalyst toward a higher purpose.
Thousands of years ago, the human drive was focused on survival. We can call this drive, or operating system, Motivation 1.0. As society became more complex, so did our operating system. We came to realize that humans are more than just the sum of our biological urges; we developed a second operating system, Motivation 2.0, which was focused on external rewards and punishments. Harnessing this drive became essential to economic progress, especially during the last two centuries, as business saw workers as parts in a complicated machine. The bedrock assumption of Motivation 2.0, which is now deeply ingrained in our organizations and daily lives, is that the way to improve performance, increase productivity, and encourage excellence is to reward the good and punish the bad.
This operating system worked for routine tasks, but it's incompatible with how we work in the twenty-first century.
Consider: the largest and most popular encyclopedia in the world was created by tens of thousands of people who write and edit the articles for fun. They have no special qualifications and they are not paid a dime for their work. The conventional view of human motivation has a very hard time explaining Wikipedia.
Behavioral scientists divide what we do on the job into algorithmic tasks—those with set instructions and processes that can be outsourced or automated—and heuristic tasks—those that require you to experiment and create. In the twentieth century, most work was algorithmic; today more and more work is heuristic. And while extrinsic or external rewards and punishments can motivate someone doing routine work, they actually dampen the enthusiasm and creativity of someone doing the kind of creative, heuristic work on which modern economies depend.
Motivation 3.0 is the upgrade necessary for the smooth functioning of twenty-first century business.
The traditional reward-and-punishment system works fine in some settings but it's a deeply unreliable predictor of human behavior. We need a new way to think about motivation.
If you want to motivate a child to learn math, you might think it a good idea to encourage her with a payment for every workbook page she completes—but social science research has shown that while this may encourage her in the short-term, it will actually turn the task of doing math into a chore, and she'll lose interest in the long-term. Tangible "if-then" rewards can wipe out intrinsic motivation, diminish performance, crush creativity, and crowd out good behavior.
For artists, scientists, inventors, students, in fact everyone, intrinsic motivation—the drive to do something because it is interesting and absorbing—is essential for creativity. The economy is moving towards creative and conceptual forms of work, yet business is still clinging to the old "if-then" reward structures of extrinsic motivation. These external carrots not only crush creativity and encourage short-term thinking, they can become addictive: pay your son to take out the trash one day, and he'll never want to do it again without getting paid.
Sometimes carrots and sticks work just fine: they are great for rules-based routine tasks with little intrinsic motivation or creativity but beware using rewards of any kind for non-routine conceptual tasks. In such cases, use rewards in a way that gives useful information about performance.
There is a body of work in the social sciences based around the concept of self-determination theory, the idea that humans have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. This approach lays the foundation for a new human operating system, Motivation 3.0, based on a new type of behavior: Type I.
Motivation 2.0 used and encouraged Type X behavior that was fueled by extrinsic desires, not intrinsic ones. Type X behavior cared less about the inherent satisfaction of a task and more about the external rewards that the task can bring.
Motivation 3.0 depends on and fosters Type I behavior, that is less concerned with external rewards and more with the inherent satisfaction of the activity itself. Type I behavior doesn't disdain money or recognition, they are just not the most important considerations. Type I almost always outperforms Type X in the long run; and encouraging this behavior is better for people's physical and mental well-being.
For professional success and personal fulfilment, we need to move ourselves and our colleagues from Type X to Type I.
Our default setting is to be autonomous and self-directed, but outdated notions of 'management' change that default setting and turn us from Type I into Type X. In other words, Type X behavior is learned, whereas Type I is inherent to being human.
Science shows that the secret to high performance isn't our biological drive or our reward-and-punishment drive, it's our desire to direct our own lives, to expand our abilities, and to make a contribution. Anyone who spends time around young children knows that humans are designed to be active and engaged. We are at our best when we are doing something that matters, doing it well, and doing it in the service of a cause larger than ourselves.
There are three elements needed to encourage Type I behavior: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
The traditional idea of management is based on the assumption that people need to be pushed to take action or move forward, when in fact we are wired to be active and engaged. Autonomy—our desire to be self-directed—is a basic human need.
Autonomy is not the same as independence; it means acting with choice. Recent behavioral science research shows that autonomous motivation promotes greater conceptual understanding, higher productivity, more persistence at school and in sports, less burnout, and higher levels of psychological well-being.
People need autonomy over what they do (task); when they do it (time); who they do it with (team); and how they do it (technique). Far from discouraging accountability, Motivation 3.0 assumes that people want to be accountable, and that giving them autonomy will encourage this.
Organizations that have found inventive, even radical, ways to boost autonomy are outperforming their competitors. At Best Buy's corporate headquarters, most of the employees have abandoned a regular work schedule and instead operate in a ROWE—Results Oriented Work Environment. Salaried people put in as much time as it takes to do their work; hourly employees get to choose when they work. Productivity has increased by 35% and turnover is significantly lower. Similarly, the call-center employees at online shoe retailer Zappos don't follow scripts, and their calls are not monitored or timed. Their job is to serve the customer, whether it takes a minute or an hour. Unlike most call centers, which have high annual turnover rates, turnover at Zappos is minimal.
Mastery is our urge to make progress and get better at what we do; it is essential to making one's way in today's economy. The modern workplace, however, tends to disregard mastery. It emphasizes compliance—a Motivation 2.0 behavior that may be essential for physical survival but is a lousy way to attain personal fulfillment. Motivation 3.0 requires engagement, which is the only way to produce mastery.
Mastery begins with "flow"—that moment of optimal experience when the challenge you face is perfectly matched with your abilities. Type I behavior prizes learning goals over performance goals and welcomes effort as a way to improve at something that matters.
There are three rules of mastery. First, recognize that mastery is a mindset that requires seeing your abilities as infinitely improvable. Second, realize that mastery is a pain; it demands effort, grit, and practice over a long period of time. Finally, acknowledge that mastery is an asymptote: this is a concept from algebra, meaning something that can be approached but never quite reached. Mastery is impossible to fully realize, making it both frustrating and alluring—the joy is in the pursuit.
Humans seek purpose; it's part of our very nature. We yearn to contribute and be part of something bigger than ourselves. Motivation 2.0 doesn't recognize purpose as a motivator; traditional businesses see purpose as ornamental and something that should not get in the way of more important pursuits. Motivation 3.0 realizes that purpose is an essential part of the human condition.
Attitudes toward the importance of purpose are changing, thanks in part to the tide of aging baby boomers—the largest demographic cohort in most western societies—who are becoming aware of their own mortality. As they reach the age of 60 and beyond, they are asking the big questions: What will I do in the last 25 years of my life? Am I going to do something that matters, that makes a difference in the world?
Motivation 3.0 sees purpose maximization alongside profit maximization as an aspiration and guiding principle. Forward-thinking organizations and corporations recognize the importance of the "purpose motive," expressing it as goals that use profit to reach a purpose. For example, every time TOMS Shoes sells a pair of shoes to anyone, they give away a new pair of shoes to a child in a developing country. TOMS is both a charity that finances its operations with sales and a business that sacrifices its earnings to do good—and it's also neither of these things. It's a company with a new business model, one that "transforms our customers into benefactors." TOMS exemplifies the new breed of businessperson that seeks purpose with a fervor that traditional economic theory reserves for entrepreneurs seeking profit. They use profit as the catalyst, rather than the objective.
The purpose-driven organization uses words that emphasize more than self-interest—words like greater good and sustainable—and they embrace policies that allow people to pursue purpose on their own terms.
In 2009 students in Harvard Business School's MBA program created the "MBA Oath," a code of conduct in which students pledge fealty to causes above and beyond the bottom line. Today, more than 300 educational institutions around the globe have embraced the MBA Oath. They recognize that purpose maximization has the potential to reinvigorate our businesses and remake our world.
There are a number of ways to create the setting in which Type I behavior can flourish, both in yourself and in an organization.
Awaken your motivation
Start by giving yourself a "flow" test—at random times during the week take note of what you are doing, how you feel, and whether you are in the flow. Look for patterns and ask yourself, "What are the tasks that produce feelings of flow?" Can you restructure your day to increase these activities? What did this exercise tell you about your career and your true source of intrinsic motivation?
To keep yourself motivated, at the end of every day ask yourself whether you were better today than yesterday. Did you do more of what motivates you?
Make a list of the tasks and behaviors you want to avoid—management guru Tom Peters calls this the "to don't" list, the unnecessary obligations and time-wasting distractions that stand in your way.
Improving your company, office, or group
Carve out time for non-commissioned work. Encourage employees to spend 20% of their hours working on any project they want. If these seem like too daunting of a cultural shift, start with 10% for a set period, say 3-6 months. See what people come up with when they are encouraged to spend one afternoon a week on non-commissioned work.
Make the next one-day offsite a day for non-commissioned work, where employees can work on anything they choose, however they want—just make sure they have the tools and resources they need. Impose one rule: people must deliver something the following day, a new idea, product prototype, or process.
Conduct do-it-yourself performance reviews, individually or with the aid of a small group of colleagues, where you self-evaluate every month based on a set of goals you set for yourself.
As a boss, encourage Type I behavior by relinquishing control. Involve people in goal-setting; use non-controlling language ("think about" instead of "must"); and hold regular office hours when any employee can come talk to you about anything. Create diverse teams focused on collaboration, not competition. Animate with purpose, not with rewards. Encourage self-organizing teams. Build projects around motivated individuals.
Get compensation right: ensure internal and external fairness; pay people a little more than the market average; and make sure any performance metrics are varied, relevant to the company as a whole, and hard to cheat.
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