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What Motivates Us?
August 26, 2010 10:15 PM   Subscribe

Challenging the notion that humans are motivated by monetary reward, Dan Pink presents a variety of studies that test this notion. Inspired by his newest book, Drive
posted by fantodstic (34 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sex.
posted by polymodus at 10:40 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The RSA has a host of incredible events to download. I've been listening to these for a long time.
posted by quarsan at 10:45 PM on August 26, 2010


remember those Marxism or Lenin for beginners books
had the story then some cartoons like
Bakunin with a round bomb and onion skin scribbles.

the pictures helped
posted by clavdivs at 11:02 PM on August 26, 2010


Significantly, Pink's argument involves some qualifications, like:

1) humans do respond well to increasing monetary rewards for mechanical tasks

2) in order to achieve better performance through non-monetary rewards of increased autonomy, mastery, and purpose, workers must already be "paid enough to take money off the table."

I suspect the bolded part will be ignored by the next generation of forward-thinking capitalists who try to reward workers by granting them the autonomy to work for free in their "spare" time to become master workers in the service of realizing the goals of the Company Mission Statement.

There's good and interesting stuff in this research, but Pink's pitch seems to me to rest mostly on capitalists envy of Linux's "free" labor, and seems more likely to result in managers exhorting subordinates that they need to believe in the purpose of the company more instead of, you know, asking for more money.
posted by Marty Marx at 11:02 PM on August 26, 2010 [18 favorites]


I like the idea that people working autonomously on whatever they want to accomplish will be far more productive than people working towards the manager's established goal. That's a workplace that inspires creativity and success.
posted by karminai at 11:20 PM on August 26, 2010


is this a gladwellbot?
posted by Ironmouth at 11:23 PM on August 26, 2010


Yes to Marty Marx. Largely, the ones who people the cult of the mission statement, of motivation 2.0, seven habits, et al, want to be your boss, not your audience. It is impossible to miss the sinister and judicial note in Pink's catchphrase "what is your sentence?" as if it expects, in answer: no parole.
posted by kid ichorous at 11:39 PM on August 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


This book, is it free or does Pink want money for it?
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:14 AM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's good and interesting stuff in this research, but Pink's pitch seems to me to rest mostly on capitalists envy of Linux's "free" labor, and seems more likely to result in managers exhorting subordinates that they need to believe in the purpose of the company more instead of, you know, asking for more money.

Pretty cynical. Yes, some capitalists are greedy, but in an increasingly networked world, word gets around. Companies, like economies, evolve. If the greedy capitalist is using phony stimulants to drive results, s/he is not in an ideal competitive position, long-term, not any more.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:05 AM on August 27, 2010


This relates to something I once heard Terry Pratchett talk about. Money doesn't matter once you have enough of it. It's like air. How many of us stockpile oxygen cylinders at home, because you know, we want more of it? How many of us spend our time worrying about it? Yet a lack of air would cause us to worry about it, and work hard to get more of it.

So yes - this applies to rewards structures, once you get past the point at which money becomes someone's prime motivator. If you have enough to be comfortable on, you pay more atttention to things like working conditions, flexibility, conditions where we're not in a living hell for just a few more bucks.

The flip side of course is that everyone has different levels at which they're comfortable on. If your reward structure is purely based on buckets more money, but you have to put up with shitty conditions, you'll get those people who's primary motivation is buckets of money - not necessarily pride in work, helping other team members, or working on the best and most creative solutions. Instead, you end up with a backstabbing lone-wolf environment, where the best way to advance (i.e. more money) is to step up at the expense of the people under you. This is plainly visible in the almost sociopathic way many people who get lots of money act - not that the money causes that per se, but that's the kind of person you attract to that position.

So in a high-stakes, high-reward job, the way to get better overall productivity is not just more money, but by providing a better quality, more flexible working environment - and you'll attract people better able to work together, and individually they're work better.

Yet that only applies when you're providing enough financial reward for money to no longer be a stressor, i.e. a negative drain on productivity.

Like Marty Marx though, I suspect that part will be ignored entirely, and "no, you're not getting a raise, you should want to be working for free in your own time" will be the take-home message by those who've already got to the top on the backs of others. Not "You at the top, stop handing out bags of money to yourselves and your fellows, but start looking at building a more co-operative and friendly work environment while rewarding those lower down more fairly so they too cease worrying all about money and be more productive"
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:39 AM on August 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


The indie game programmer Chris Hecker did an interesting (70 minute) talk a few weeks ago, linking the above-mentioned studies to achievements and trophies in Xbox and Playstation games.

Like Pink, he suggests that separating the purpose (stabbing dudes) from the profit (Hey! You just stabbed 50 dudes! Have 30 points!) could in fact destroy the motivation for stabbing dudes in the first place (an awful and unacceptable outcome, obviously).
posted by dudekiller at 4:50 AM on August 27, 2010


I quite like Dan Pink, he's a fun speaker and does the Gladwell thing of taking lots of research and putting it into one big idea. Previously he was hawking the left brain/right brain thing.

Drive isn't that shocking, people aren't always motivated by money, once you have enough its about the challenge, enjoyment and engagement. Csikszentmihalyi's flow etc. Even Wall St types aren't motivated by money (after a certain point), they're motivated by playing the game of making money. Trading is the ultimate game, instant feedback on your decisions, all sorts of cool technology, endless challengers.
No doubt some employers will take this as evidence they shouldn't pay people more but Pinks thrust is to get them not always think that throwing money at a problem will solve it or improve it.
If some MBA toting cliche-o-tron executive picks this book up in an airport lounge then decides to do something differently that makes people like their work more for the same money, is that such a bad thing.
posted by Damienmce at 5:09 AM on August 27, 2010


Is his book worth buying?
posted by Ritchie at 5:24 AM on August 27, 2010


The research discussed in the first 5 minutes of the video (that's all i saw) is straight out of the first chapter of Dan Ariely's book, The upside of irrationality (2010). I would recommend that book as well.
posted by polymodus at 5:34 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


MR PINK: I don't tip because society says I gotta. I tip when somebody deserves a tip. When somebody really puts forth an effort, they deserve a little something extra. But this tipping automatically, that shit's for the birds. As far as I'm concerned, they're just doin' their job. What I'm sayin' is I'm challenging the notion that humans are motivated by monetary reward.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:44 AM on August 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


There's a good chapter about a similar topic in Dan Ariely's book Predictably Irrational. Basically the idea is that social or moral pressure is a much, much stronger motivator than money, but once money has been introduced to the situation, it taints the interaction and the social motivator becomes useless. Here's a [heavily simplified] example: your friends would probably help you move if you offered them pizza afterwards... but if you offered them $5 each (the cost of their share of the pizza), they might just tell you to go fuck yourself.
posted by telegraph at 5:54 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


MR PINK: I don't tip because society says I gotta. I tip when somebody deserves a tip. When somebody really puts forth an effort, they deserve a little something extra. But this tipping automatically, that shit's for the birds. As far as I'm concerned, they're just doin' their job. What I'm sayin' is I'm challenging the notion that humans are motivated by monetary reward.
Ah, so he's a total asshole with absolutely no conception of how money and economics works for people who aren't rich?

Also, I note that his book sells for $15.75 on Amazon. Given his premise, shouldn't it be free? This paying for books automatically, that shit's for the birds. As far as I'm concerned he's just doing his jobs. What I'm sayin' is I'm challenging the notion that humans are motivated by monetary reward. If its an excellent book I'll give him a little something extra, a couple quarters or something.
posted by sotonohito at 6:11 AM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Money doesn't matter once you have enough of it.

I think this is true, though what "enough" means is going to vary a lot. I am far from wealthy, but I am paid enough to comfortably cover my basic needs and desires. If my workplace doubled my salary tomorrow, I'd be really happy -- but I wouldn't start working twice as hard. On the other hand, if I was earning minimum wage and they offered to double my salary in exchange for doubling my effort, I'd jump all over it.
posted by Forktine at 6:12 AM on August 27, 2010


posted by sotonohito at 2:11 PM on August 27 [+] [!]

I assume you've never seen reservoir dogs?
posted by I_pity_the_fool at 6:23 AM on August 27, 2010


If my workplace doubled my salary tomorrow, I'd be really happy

It's funny you should say that, because it seems that pretty much everyone, no matter what his income, figures that making about twice as much would solve all financial woes. When New Yorker runs a piece called "Going Broke on $350,000 a Year" or something, where the interviewees talk about the hardship in having to let some of their domestic staff go and putting Junior in a less prestigious private school, I am sure they figure that with three quarters of a million per year, everything would be just tickety-boo.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:26 AM on August 27, 2010


Is that the sound of ten thousand MBAs digesting the back cover and excreting a new nugget of corporate philosophy I hear? Techies and the creative class will work for praise and half-assed bennies!
posted by adipocere at 6:52 AM on August 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I believe money is what they call a "hygiene factor." Not enough of it and you're fucking miserable. But after a certain point, getting more and more of it has diminishing returns and less and less (and perhaps even a detrimental) effect on motivation.
posted by Ouisch at 7:28 AM on August 27, 2010


MR PINK: I don't tip because society says I gotta. I tip when somebody deserves a tip. When somebody really puts forth an effort, they deserve a little something extra. But this tipping automatically, that shit's for the birds. As far as I'm concerned, they're just doin' their job. What I'm sayin' is I'm challenging the notion that humans are motivated by monetary reward.

Obviously in most states people aren't paid normal wages, and are expected to make much of their income off tips. Does he not know this?

Anyway, the fact that money doesn't always motivate people has been known for a long time. I'm not sure how this is new. Maybe it's just a new packaging for capitalists who have probably internalized their greedy behavior.
posted by delmoi at 8:14 AM on August 27, 2010


What's funny to me is that I've seen some researcher (behind the scenes) hear that money isn't a good motivator and then start judging (poor) people on moral grounds for being motivated by money.

Ugh.
posted by vitabellosi at 8:32 AM on August 27, 2010


Yes, some capitalists are greedy, but in an increasingly networked world, word gets around.

"Sincerity is everything. If you can fake that, you've got it made."
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:34 AM on August 27, 2010


MR PINK: I don't tip because society says I gotta. I tip when somebody deserves a tip. When somebody really puts forth an effort, they deserve a little something extra. But this tipping automatically, that shit's for the birds. As far as I'm concerned, they're just doin' their job. What I'm sayin' is I'm challenging the notion that humans are motivated by monetary reward.

I *do* tip, because I know perfectly well that many waitstaff etc are not paid normal wages otherwise. But I am angry at that, and really wish I lived in a country where my tip did not make up for their employer paying them crap. I'd like to use money as a motivator when it comes to tipping-- but instead I feel forced to tip so the server doesn't get completely screwed. The tip is thus informationless.

Also, yeah, of course people are motivated by things other than money. Otherwise how would there be any academics?
posted by nat at 8:54 AM on August 27, 2010


what "enough" means is going to vary a lot.

A gentleman I know remarked about one of his best friends, a billionaire, who has two security checkpoints on the driveway to his heavily guarded house: "The rich live differently than we do." But this guy himself has an estimated worth of about $100M. I think he's still trying to get rich, poor man.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:16 AM on August 27, 2010


sotonohito, delmoi, and nat: the "Mr. Pink" quote is from Resivoir Dogs (NSFW) and has nothing to do with Dan Pink.
posted by Western Infidels at 9:20 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not the only one finding it hilarious that commenters are arguing earnestly with Mr. Pink's tipping philosophy though, am I?
posted by rusty at 10:26 AM on August 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


I love the fact that ricochet biscuit's comment is a test of whether you've watched the video linked in the post and whether you've seen reservoir dogs.
posted by snofoam at 10:38 AM on August 27, 2010


No, rusty, you are not alone.
posted by snofoam at 10:39 AM on August 27, 2010


Previously he was hawking the left brain/right brain thing.

Ruh roh. So his old ideas turned out to be bunkum, but now he's got some new ones? Yay.
posted by emjaybee at 11:18 AM on August 27, 2010


I suspect the bolded part will be ignored by the next generation of forward-thinking capitalists who try to reward workers by granting them the autonomy to work for free in their "spare" time to become master workers in the service of realizing the goals of the Company Mission Statement.

This is already happening in the "social media factory", sites that promote the self-actualizing potential of producing content on their services so they have something to sell advertising next to. We spend 8 hours at our regular job working for the Man, then in our leisure time we produce content for the Web 2.0 Man which we aren't even compensated for. Not only that, labor is redefined as leisure, so we're even grateful for this new opportunity. The only difference between Facebook (or MeFi?) and Amazon's Mechanical Turk is that paying people by the word for updating their status tends to produce low quality work. Intrinsic rewards are cheaper, generate a better quality product and don't create legal obligations like employee protections enshrined in labor law that capitalists have long sought to be free of.

One thing that I notice is that there is increasing social pressure to be self-actualized. I've asked people what they're majoring in at college, and sometimes they are embarrassed to reveal that they aren't actually passionate about the subject, they just think it will get them a decent job. Giving up your creative, artistic potential and choosing mundane things like security and health care is seen as shameful, and this raises the question of whether these intrinsic values really are intrinsic, or whether "self-actualization" is just an arbitrary value that happens to be privileged and valorized. Is it 21st century equivalent of the 1950s suburban house and nuclear family, the ideal that everyone labors and shops to achieve?
posted by AlsoMike at 1:23 PM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah. No, I've never seen Reservoir Dogs. And I gave up watching the linked video 30 seconds in because I hate video as a mechanism for transmitting information, text is vastly better. Which, of course, makes me look like a moron....
posted by sotonohito at 4:06 PM on August 27, 2010


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