In Daniel Pink’s excellent book, DRiVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, he argues – well, here’s his own Twitter summary of the book:
Twitter summary (in Pink’s own words, from the end of the book): “Carrots & sticks are so last century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery, & purpose.”
Pink argues passionately for the supremacy of intrinsic motivation over extrinsic motivation. He wrote: For artists, scientists, inventors, schoolchildren, and the rest of us, intrinsic motivation – the drive to do something because it is interesting, challenging, and absorbing – is essential for high levels of creativity.
But… our country is in the midst of a dry spell in the innovation department. And, one piece of recent legislation provides for government prizes for innovation. Here’s an excerpt from the Slate.com article by Annie Lowrey, Prizewinning Policy: Can Washington get America’s economy moving again with cash rewards?:
There’s good reason for the government to get in on it: Prizes work, and they have a surprisingly long pedigree. Most famously, in 1714, the British government offered £20,000 to anyone who could devise a reliable way of measuring longitude at sea, a problem neither Newton nor Galileo could solve. (Clockmaker John Harrison won in 1773.) Napoleon offered a prize for innovations in food preservation for his army, leading to the development of modern canning. And the $25,000 Orteig Prize spurred Charles Lindbergh to make his trans-Atlantic flight.
The evidence backing the prize boom is not entirely anecdotal, either. There is not a huge body of academic research into prizes, but what there is supports them. One oft-cited study examines the prizes offered by the Royal Agricultural Society of England between 1839 and 1939. “We find large effects of the prizes on contest entries,” the researchers wrote in 2008, confirming that prizes do indeed spur innovation, as opposed to just rewarding pre-existing advances. “[W]e also detect large effects of the prizes on the quality of contemporaneous inventions.”
Here is what I think. Intrinsic motivation is great – I’m a big fan of Daniel Pink’s argument. But, for any breakthroughs that actually make life better, and help us build a better economy, I think we ought to use all the arrows from any quiver available.
You can purchase my synopsis of Drive, with audio + hadnout, at our companion website, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
After a day of food and fun with our granddaughter, the undisputed center of the household at the moment (when she is in town), we settled down to watch Avatar. (Yes, I had seen it at the theater).
There are a lot of ways to look at this film. Here is one: it is the battle between Motivation 2.0 and Motivation 3.0 (Daniel Pink’s terms). The context: the corporate profit seekers need the Navi to move away from their beautiful home, in order to turn a greater profit.
Here’s the relevant dialogue (from the script, found here):
So — who talks them into moving?
What if they won’t go?
I’m betting they will.
Killing the indigenous looks bad, but there’s one thing shareholders hate more
than bad press — and that’s a bad quarterly statement. Find me a carrot to
get them to move, or it’s going to have to be all stick. (emphasis added).
Jake is shaken by the enormity of this new responsibility.
You got three months. That’s when the dozers get there.
I’m on it.
Selfridge, the “company man,” is the one who uses the imagery of carrots and sticks. Here is his character bio from imdb:
Parker Selfridge is the “company man” on Pandora, the Chief Administrator for RDA. He’s in charge of all the mining operations on the planet and determined not the let the ‘natives’ stand in his way. He’d like to use diplomacy- largely because it looks better from a PR standpoint- but is prepared to use force if necessary.
Well, if you have seen Avatar, you know that carrots and sticks did not win the day. The Navi are fully devoted Motivation 3.0 followers, finding their motivation from within, true intrinsic motivation – motivation that leads them to the greatest of sacrifice.
So, yes, as I watched the movie I thought of the motivation insight from Daniel Pink’s DRiVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Here is his own twitter summary of his book (in Pink’s own words, from the end of the book):
“Carrots & sticks are so last century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery, & purpose.”
I think it is interesting that in the midst of the story of Avatar, James Cameron reveals just how outmoded carrots and sticks are in an evolved community.