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If you find yourself struggling to keep your team (or yourself) motivated, it may be time to take a closer look at some of the ideas by Daniel H. Pink, in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us.

Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Daniel H. Pink shares the secret ingredients behind productivity, fulfilment and happiness in our modern society.

Bringing Out the Intrinsic Motivation

In the long run, people who are motivated intrinsically by the freedom, challenge, and purpose of their tasks almost always outperform and enjoy greater well-being than those who are motivated by external rewards like money and recognition.

The formula to the inner drive lies with the combination of 3 key elements: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Download our book summary & infographic of “Drive” here!

1) Autonomy

Autonomy essentially means acting with choice. Most of us are naturally self-directed and autonomous, but we have been conditioned to respond to rewards and punishments. Given the right environment, we will return to our natural self-directed state. To encourage greater initiative and better performance, give people autonomy in 4 key areas:
• Task (What they do)
• Time (When they do it)
• Team (Who they do it with)
• Technique (How they do it)

2) Mastery

Mastery means becoming better at something that matters, and this can only be achieved through deep engagement or “flow” – i.e. performing at a notch or two beyond our current abilities, hence pushing ourselves to grow and enjoying immense fulfillment in the process. To encourage mastery, create conditions for people to make progress, then highlight, recognize and celebrate that progress.

3) Purpose

Purpose is about linking your desires to a cause that’s bigger than yourself. Motivated, productive and fulfilled people typically work towards a higher purpose beyond their self-interest. You can express “purpose motives” in your organization through 3 ways:
• Goals: Place purpose as the priority, and use profits as a catalyst rather than the key objective.
• Words: Focus on “why” rather than “how”.
• Policies: Allow people to pursue purpose on their own terms.


Using Rewards Effectively

While the traditional carrot-and-stick approach to motivation is no longer effective in the 21st Century, external rewards still play a role in complementing intrinsic rewards. Specifically:

• Ensure that people are given at least “baseline rewards” (i.e. a fair and equitable salary, perks and benefits), as these are pre-requisites to motivation. Beyond that baseline however, carrots and sticks can actually dampen rather than increase motivation.

• Use “If-Then rewards” for dull and routine tasks (e.g. data-entry, manual labour):
o Acknowledge that the task is boring
o Explain why the task is necessary, so you provide meaning for an otherwise-boring task.
o Provide autonomy, and give people some freedom over how they complete the task. Reward them for performing the job well or above expectations.

I.e. “If you can do/ achieve  ____, then I will give you ____”.  For example, you may provide clear instructions on what’s required for cleaner’s job, including the purpose of the requirements/ guidelines if any.  However, give the cleaner some degree of flexibility in performing his/her job, and you may be surprised at the little innovations that could come out of what you perceive to be a boring and routine task.
• Use “Now-then rewards” for non-routine conceptual tasks (e.g. innovation, design work):
o Offer rewards as a surprise or bonus after the task is completed.
o Use non-tangible rewards like praise and positive feedback rather than just cash and physical trophies.
o Provide specific feedback, focusing on their effort and strategy (rather than must the results)
o Combine this with fair baseline rewards, and the 3 elements of autonomy, mastery and purpose.
In such cases, it is harder to pre-define what an outstanding piece of work should look like – precisely because it has not yet been created or conceptualized. Use surprise bonuses for outstanding work, a motivating vision, freedom with opportunities to grow and tons of recognition work best. i.e. “Now that you’ve created this breakthrough or masterpiece, then we are giving you these unexpected rewards”.

Drive_use rewards correctly

Read the summary of Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, or subscribe to receive more useful tips, summaries and book graphics!

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