Collaboration, Motivation & Leadership - Weekly Leader Posts and Podcasts

It has been sometime since I linked my Weekly Leader posts and podcasts.

Podcasts

Interview with Dan Pink on Motivation (Drive:The Surprising Truth About What  Motivates Us)

Organizing Grassroots Leadership Events

Posts

Is Showing Up Enough?

The Experience That Matters

The 5 C's of Lessons In Leadership

The Structure Question

The 7 Virtues of a 21st century organization

You can find more here. Thank you for taking time to read them.


Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink - A Leading Questions revew

Early in Daniel Pink’s new book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, he writes,Dan Pink - Drive - cover

Harnessing this second drive has been essential to economic progress around the world, especially during the last two centuries. ... Fredrick Winslow Taylor ... believed businesses were being run in an inefficient, haphazard way, invented what he called "scientific management."

Workers, this approach held, were like parts in a complicated machine. If they did the right work in the right way at the right time, the machine would function smoothly. And to ensure that happened, you simply reward the behavior you sought and punished the behavior you discouraged. People would respond rationally to these external forces - these extrinsic motivators - and both they and the system itself would flourish.

... And so this general approach remained intact - because it was, after all, easy to understand, simple to monitor, and straightforward to enforce. But in the first ten years of this century - a period of truly staggering underachievement in business, technology, and social progress - we've discovered that this sturdy, old operating system doesn't work nearly as well. It crashes - often and unpredictably. Most of all, it is proving incompatible with many aspects of contemporary business. And if we examine those incompatibility problems closely, we'll realize that modest updates - a patch here or there - will not solve the problem. What we need is a full scale upgrade. (Emphasis mine.)

This insight is worth stopping and reflecting on for a moment. Pink is saying that the traditional way we’ve motivated and compensated people no longer works as well. It works in situations where the work is repetitive tasks measured by rate of completion and quality. However this is not the future of work, it is the past.

Pink draws on little known social science research to show that extrinsic rewards are counterproductive to a wide range of goals that companies may have. He looks at the research conducted by Edward Deci.

Deci revealed that human motivation seemed to operate by laws that ran counter to what most scientists and citizens believed. From the office to the playing field, we know that what got people going, Rewards – especially cold, hard cash – intensified interest and enhanced performance. What Deci found … was almost the opposite. “[W]hen money is used as an external reward for some activity, the subjects lose intrinsic interest for the activity, “ he wrote. Rewards can deliver a short-term boost – just as a jolt of caffeine can keep you cranking for a few more hours. But the effect wears off – and, worse, can reduce a person’s longer-term motivation to continue the project. Human beings, Deci said, have an “inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise their capacities, to explore, and to learn.” But this third drive was more fragile than the other two; it needed the right environment to survive. “[O]ne who is interested in developing and enhancing intrinsic motivation in children, employees, students, etc., should not concentrate on external-control systems such as monetary rewards,” …

Before you just say, “Yeah, everybody knows this.” Stop and think about the implications for every manager in every company on the planet. Think about how carrot-and-stick motivation is used not just as a rewards incentive, but also as threat and punishment. Think about how bribery and coercion, fear and intimidation are often standard practices in organizations. The assumption or rationale behind this approach is that this is how to deal with people and this is the way we do business.

Pink presents a way to begin to see that the future of business is not like the past. If the carrot-and-stick is the past, then leading people through intrinsic rewards is the future. He describes three elements for an intrinsic motivation approach. They are Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Each is essential for individuals to thrive.

Individualized, it is easy to see how the desire for autonomy over the circumstances of our life and work is natural. We can point to skills and talents that we’ve mastered over time. And many of us have a clearly defined purpose that governs our life and work. It is rare, if ever, that businesses organize around the ideas of individual autonomy, mastery and purpose. It is this insight that makes this book a significant contribution not only to the literature of self-development, but also on leadership and organizational development.

How do you take a large, complex, global corporate structure and infuse the values of intrinsic motivation into its operating structure. This is the question that lies behind Pink’s claim that the first decade of 21st. century was a period of truly staggering underachievement in business, technology, and social progress. This is one aspect of the challenge that confronts society in the future. The issues are not simply how to motivate or compensate people.

Pink provides some helpful examples of companies and movements where the principles of autonomy, mastery and purpose are core values. It is possible to organize an enterprise with intrinsic motivation as a governing assumption. However, do so raises questions about authority, accountability, compensation and the ultimate goal of the company. These are important questions for both today and the future.

Drive is more than just a commentary on the social science of human motivation. Pink includes practical ideas and resources for study and application of the book’s ideas. For this reason, the book is a great resource for leadership teams and office staffs.

Dan Pink has provided us interesting look into the world of work and provides a perspective that is fresh and helpful. As with his other books, he is giving us material that helps makes sense of the changes that are taking place in the worlds of life and work. The challenge for we, his readers,is to take this wisdom and put it to use in the various social and organizational settings where we live and work. it is my hope this is what will be the result of this fine contribution.

Note: This review is also published at Weekly Leader.


What's at Stake?

How do you know when you really know someone?

This is a question that I've pondered often over the years. It has usually happened with someone I thought I knew well acted in a way that was inconsistent with the person that I thought I knew.

In one case, a friend walked away from our friendship. And did so with intention and announcement.

In another case, a friend essentially disappeared. Changed jobs, twice; moved, twice, and the links, even those online disappeared.

I've thought about this over the past few days as I've reflected on seeing James Cameron's technological marvel, Avatar. You should see Avatar in 3D. It is an experience that you should have to see how far the digital film technology has come to be able to create the scenes you'll see.

That said, I was disappointed with the film as a story. I sat there in the theater detached from the story. I thought, "What size HD TV will I need to watch this at home." "Imagine Lord of the Rings with this level of visual effect." "Isn't this Dances with Wolves in Space?"  Granted there is an interesting moral question at the heart of the in-story Avatar technology, but the context and story that is wrapped around it is not. It is too much a retread of simplistic themes we've seen elsewhere.

What makes for a compelling story is compelling characters? What makes for a compelling character is the same thing that makes it possible to really know people.

We need to know what is at stake for them. We need to know what they fear losing, not just what they love.

In Avatar, the Stephen Lang character, Colonel Quaritch is a cardboard cutout of every blood-thirsty maniac soldier we seen before.  He is a cartoon caricature of those who are serving in Afghanistan and Iraq right now. We know that because for this Colonel, he has nothing to lose. His only concern is completing his mission. It is what he believes in. We don't really know this man. He's just a vehicle for moving the story along, providing some dramatic contrast between the good guys and the bad guys. As a result, he distracts from the story and makes it less interesting.  It is the real reason that movie Westerns lost favor with the public. Now the setting is outer space.

As a result of watching Avatar, I am rewatching The Lord of the Rings. The story is filled with the realization of what is at stake, of what could be lost, and therefore, what truly matters to people. It is the kind of story that I wish Cameron would have written. Here's a comparison between these two fantasies.

For Frodo Baggins, if he fails in his quest, he not only loses his life, but the Shire as well and all of Middle Earth is lost. Here we see author JRR Tolkien's lament for the loss of the simple human scale values of the medieval world to a modern culture of technology that rules all of us.

For Jake Sully, to foresake his human life to live permanently as a Na'vi seems as normal and simple as changing jobs. Did the world and the people from where he came not mean anything to him? What would his mother say of his choice? Is he just a nice version of Colonel Quaritch, only living to complete the missions given him by his superiors, detached from his humanity with nothing really to lose but his disability?  Is this what he found in the Na'vi? Is their primal culture more authentic and humanitarian than the technological, consumer one that he has lived in all his life? Or is it that he finds something that he really wants - the girl? - that is not worth losing? It isn't really that clear to me.

It is common for people today to speak about what they are passionate about. It is an indicator of what they believe in and what they love.

However, until we understand what they fear losing do we truly know people. It is a far greater motivator than desire. When we know what is at stake then we know what truly matters.


"A Period of Truly Staggering Underachievement"

In two weeks, when Dan Pink's new book, Drive:The Surprising Truth of What Motivates Us is published, you will read the following.Dan Pink - Drive - cover

Harnessing this second drive has been essential to economic progress around the world, especially during the last two centuries. ... Fredrick Winslow Taylor ... believed businesses were being run in an inefficient, haphazard way, invented what he called "scientific management."

Workers, this approach held, were like parts in a complicated machine. If they did the right work in the right way at the right time, the machine would function smoothly. And to ensure that happened, you simply reward the behavior you sought and punished the behavior you discouraged. People would respond rationally to these external forces - these extrinsic motivators - and both they and the system itself would flourish.

... And so this general approach remained intact - because it was, after all, easy to understand, simple to monitor, and straightforward to enforce. But in the first ten years of this century - a period of truly staggering underachievement in business, technology, and social progress - we've discovered that this sturdy, old operating system doesn't work nearly as well.  It crashes - often and unpredictably. Most of all, it is proving incompatible with many aspects of contemporary business. And if we examine those incompatibility problems closely, we'll realize that modest updates - a patch here or there - will not solve the problem. What we need is a full scale upgrade.

Read again the sentence in boldface italic.

... in the first ten years of this century - a period of truly staggering underachievement in business, technology, and social progress ...

This is not hyperbole. This is reality.

Recently the financial services firm, Deloitte, published their 2009 Shift Index. Their announcement of their 2009 report begins with this paragraph.

Despite major improvement in labor productivity over the last four decades, many industries in the United States have experienced alarming decreases in their return-on-assets (ROA). This according to Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, which today released industry-specific findings from its 2009 “Shift Index,” a new economic indicator identifying three waves of disruption that are shaping today’s business landscape.

In other words, all this efficiency is not creating a stronger, more vital economy. Why is this?

Dan Pink isn't just blowing smoke either. He is pointing to a reality that has been obscured by the recession. Unless you are in an industry that is in radical free fall, the temptation is to think that once the recession is over, things will be back to the way they used to be. It is not going to happen this way.

We'll see a continued long slow decline of those industries that have not embrace the realities that are now present.  Those businesses that embrace the transition to the next era of organizations and business will thrive. Can old, legacy companies change fast enough? They can if they are willing to abandon their assumptions about the way the world works, especially their ideas about people.

The key is changing the structure of organizations to be more closely aligned with the insights that Dan Pink provides in his book. (I'll post a review of Drive closer to its publishing date.) It isn't just more collaboration or telecommuting. It is at a more fundamental level of policy, compensation and the place of the business in a global social context. This will require a redefining of many industries and the leadership roles within them. It is already happening, but not at a pace that we can afford. It must pick up.

As Dan Pink writes about the importance of "intrinsic motivation" and Deloitte chronicles The Big Shift, we each need to become more self-critical about our governing assumptions about life and work.


Aristotelian motivation

Dan Pink, in his TED talk (Watch here or here), presents a perspective of human motivation that is worth reflecting on. In his presentation he identifies three aspects of human motivation that he wants us to consider: Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose.

All this seemed strangely familiar, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Dan was presenting a very Aristotlelian perspective of human motivation. Instead of giving you a dozen fragments from Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, I thought I reproduce a couple pages from Jonathan Lear's Aristotle: the desire to understand .

There seems then to be philosophical as well as historical reason for going back to Aristotle's ethics. With decline in confidence that Kantian morality can give us any guidance as to how to act, there is reason to go back to an ethical system based firmly in the study of human motivation. The hope is that an ethical system grounded in human motivation will not only answer questions about how to act, but will also be justifiable by reference to life as it is lived in this world. Ethics, Aristotle believed, was grounded in the study of human desire. We have already seen that, for Aristotle, all human action is grounded in desire. It is of the greatest interest to see whether any study of human desire could have recognizably ethical conclusions about how humans should act.

The point of the Nicomachean Ethics is not to persuade us to be good or to show us how to behave well in the various circumstances in life: it is to give people who are already leading a happy, virtuous life insight into the nature of their own souls. The aim of Ethics is to offer its readers self-understanding, not persuasion or advice. Of course, as we have seen, Aristotle thinks that self-understanding will be of practical value: those who understand what human happiness is will, like the archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit their target.  However, this understanding can be of practical value only for those for whom it is self-understanding: namely, for those who are already living a virtuous life. There are two reasons for this.

First, ethics is not an area in which it is possible to spell out precise rules about how to act ... Ethics cannot properly be conceived as a moral computer which one feeds information about the current circumstances as input and which churns out instructions about how to behave as output. The way to find out what to do is to seek the judgment of a good man, for he will be a good judge of how to behave. The good man will be sensitive to what the circumstances require and will be motivated to act in the right way. But if ethics is not a set of rules, that one ingests in order to become a good person, then, one cannot become a good person by internalizing a set of rules, for there are no rules to internalize.

Second, human happiness is not something which can be adequately understood from an external perspective. Among the ends toward which human actions are directed, Aristotle distinguished between ends that are distinct from the actions which produce them and ends that are the activities themselves.  This is the distinction we have already seen between change (kinesis) and an activity (energeia). ... This distinction is central to Aristotle's ethics, for acting virtuously is not a means to a distinct end of living a happy life. Acting virtuously constitutes a happy life. This cannot be adequately understood by a non-virtuous person. From the perspective of a bad man, a virtuous act will appear onerous, painful or silly. From the perspective of the immature, the idea of a virtuous act may have some appeal, but his soul will not be sufficiently formed for this to be the strongest desire within him. He will feel the pull of contrary desires and he will not understand in any but the most superficial sense that acting virtuously is the way to be happy.

What Lear writes here distinguishes Aristotle from those contemporary ethical thinkers who want to make ethics either about our intentions, and not our actions, or who want to treat ethics as entirely from a utilitarian perspective of establishing rules of what is right and wrong.

The application to present day leaders and their organizations is that to follow Lear's description of Aristotle's ethics means that we don't live in a fantasy world of self-deception believing that all that matters is that I have good intentions towards people, or that I'm okay as long as I don't break the law.

Contained within the pages of Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics is a perspective that provides an ancient, yet practical guide that touches on Dan Pink's framework of autonomy, mastery and purpose. I an eagerly looking forward to the publication of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.


Dan Pink on Motivation

Dan Pink is a smart guy. He looks deeply into things that most of us take for granted. His new venture is an exploration into the nature of motivation. Watch his presentation at TEDGlobal in July to get a taste for what he is thinking.

In December, his new  book, Drive:The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us is to be published. Here's a bit on the book.Dan Pink - Drive - cover

... a paradigm-changing examination of what truly motivates us and how to harness that knowledge to find greater satisfaction in our lives and our work.

We have been conditioned to think that the best way to motivate ourselves and others is through external rewards like moneyathe carrot-and-the-stick approach. That is a mistake, Daniel H. Pink says in his transformative new book. The key to high performance and satisfaction is intrinsic, internal motivation: the desire to follow your own interests and understand the benefits in them for you. And Pink has discovered thirty years of scientific data that confirm these ideas and show an exciting way forward.

Intrinsic, internal motivation ... stick with that thought. If this is how we are motivated to be at our best, then why have we organized all our institutions around extrinsic rewards of money and fame? Think about this. More is to come from Mr. Pink.