Monday, April 16, 2012

TED Leading Wisely: The surprising science of motivation

iTunes U CourseTED Talks Leading Wisely
Lecture (iTunes)Daniel Pink: The surprising science of motivation

My Notes:
Daniel Pink is a fantastic speaker, dynamic and commanding. I can't wait to watch more of his presentations.

After some comedic, self deprecating, opening statements, he explains The Candle Problem. The Candle Problem was an experiment designed by Karl Duncker in 1945 wherein the subjects of the experiment are presented with a box of thumb tacks, a candle and some matches and instructed to affix the lighted candle on the wall using only the materials provided. 

The results were that some attempted to thumb-tack the candle to the wall, this fails as it breaks the candle. Others tried melting some of the candle wax and using it to attach the candle to the wall. This also fails.

The best solution provided was to empty the box of tacks, tack the box to the wall and use it to hold the candle.

Mr. Pink then goes on to explain a similar experiment, by Glucksberg, in 1962. In this version of the experiment, one group of people were told that their experiment will be used to set a baseline time for average completion of the experiment. The second group of people were told that they would receive various amounts of money, as an incentive, based on how quickly they completed the task. In addition, in this version of the test, the tacks were removed from the box.

The 2nd group of people completed the task much faster than the control group. Glucksberg reasoned that that while incentives played a factor in people rapidly completing the task, removing the tacks from the box also removed some of the perceived constraints of the task.  Glucksberg goes on to explain that this "stress response" effectively shuts down the creative thinking and problem solving areas of the brain.

Daniel Pink reasons that incentive plans, bonuses, commissions and the like, actually demotivate people in their work-lives. However this is the way business in America works, "There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does."

  • As long as work-tasks only involve mechanical skills, bonuses work as expected. Higher Pay = Better Results
  • Once the tasks called for rudimentary cognitive skills, a larger reward led to poorer performance
What human being actually want is Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.
  • Autonomy: The urge to direct our own lives
  • Mastery: The desire to get better and better at something that matters
  • Purpose: The urning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves
For example: Google has what they call 20% time, where a Google can take 20% of their time to work on what they want. The result is that roughly 1/2 of the products that come from Google came from this program.

Daniel wraps by by reiterating that there is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does.
  1. 20th century motivators (incentives) do work, but only in a very narrow set of circumstances.
  2. If-The rewards often destroy creativity
  3. The secret to high-performance is the drive to do things because they matter
But we can fix this and change the world.