what really motivates us?

I recently finished Daniel Pink’s latest book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. In Drive, Pink marshalls an impressive case from social psychology and behavioral studies that better performance is not attained by means of the old “carrot and stick” method of rewards promised and punishments threatened. The effectiveness of the “carrot and stick” or “reward and punishment” approach, which Pink calls “Motivation 2.0,” is incredibly limited. Studies demonstrate that the range of effectiveness at motivating people to better performance using rewards is restricted to very rudimentary, routine tasks. And somewhat surprisingly, when even a little creativity or basic thinking is required, rewards—yes, rewards—are detrimental to improved performance.

In turns out, extrinsic motivation has a ceiling, and a surprising one at that. So, a shift is needed. To live into this newly discovered truth about human motivation, we need to understand and apply the power of intrinsic motivation, which Pink calls “Motivation 3.0.” The extrinsic motivations were the simple positive/negative of reward/punishment that I’ve mentioned already. If you stop to boil extrinsic motivation down to this basic level, it is clear how much it is like training a dog, or worse, conducting experiments on lab rats. Yes, we need a paycheck. We like getting bonuses and accountability is helpful. But these may need to be understood and used differently if they are to be aligned with what is true about the way we are wired.

The intrinsic motivations are more powerful and more productive. They are: Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose. I should let Dan Pink take it from here. The first video is just under 11 minutes long, but hardly feels it. A presentation of his has been edited and tightened for time, then animated with a whiteboard drawing as he talks. Check it out. If you’d like to hear a slightly extended version, check out the TED conference video below, which is just under 19 minutes.

I don’t have answers yet, but here are some questions that come to my mind from my context as a pastor.

  • How might this relate to our spiritual growth, our discipleship?
  • What part of our human story does this explain and/or account for? What does it fail to explain and/or account for?
  • How could this inform the way I lead the staff at my church?
  • How could this inform the way I lead the membership (read: volunteers) at my church?

What questions or applications occur to you?

You can check out the book Drive, plus his blog, and anything else from Daniel Pink on his website.

Published by Guy M Williams

Christian | Husband, Father | Pastor | 8th-Gen Texan | Texas A&M ‘96 | Asbury Seminary ‘01 | Enjoy family, reading, running, golf, college football

2 thoughts on “what really motivates us?

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