The Surprising Science of Motivation

My love for TED talks is not new for this blog.  I’m not usually a science person, so I love the TED talks brings together interesting science and technology with a speaker and presentation style that those of us who are humanities-minded can connect with!

Dan Pink‘s talk, which explores some radical notions of motivation in the workplace, was sent to me a few weeks ago by a friend and I just got around to watching it this week.  Talk about a timely email forward!  I’ve been struggling a bit in the last two weeks with a serious lack of motivation.  Partial blame lays on the sweltering heat here, which made anything that didn’t involve sitting underneath an air conditioning vent with an ice cold beer feel like a crime but I’ve also been feeling unchallenged, which in turn leads me to occupying my time with frivolous activities.  Sounds familiar, I’m sure.

I don’t want to spoil some of the surprising experiments and results that Pink outlines in his talk, which is below, but I want to share one of my favorite sections with you (emphasis my own):

In the 20th century, we came up with this idea of management.  Management did not emanate from nature.  Management is like — it’s not a tree. It’s a television set.  Someone invented it.  And it doesn’t mean it’s going to work forever.  Management is great.  Traditional notions of management are great if you want compliance.  But if you want engagement, self-direction works better.

It’s something that I think a lot of 20/30-somethings already know to be true but I love that Pink lays out why this is true, both scientifically and economically.  The traditional motivators and incentives, for most of us, don’t work – or don’t work over time.  Listening to Pink discuss the ways in which business is changing (and can change) really has me examining what I could achieve, both at work and in my own life, my adapting my concepts of motivation and reward.

The entire talk is embedded below – Enjoy!


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