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Motivation 3.0 – From Compliance to Engagement

Written by: on  May 21, 2010

Dan Pink in his book ‘DRIVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’ discusses how to move from compliance to engagement.

Motivation 2.0’s goal is to control and encourage people to do particular things in a particular way, getting them to comply using ‘a nice bunch of carrots and the occasional stick’. For routine tasks he says this worked just fine, but for the 21st century where tasks involve solving complex problems requiring an enquiring mind and a willingness to experiment, a different type of motivation is required.

Motivation 3.0 seeks engagement, and only engagement and a desire to do better can lead to mastery and the pursuit of excellence. He says that currently in the States more than 50% of employees are not engaged at work, 20% are actively disengaged and the cost of all this disengagement amounts to about $300 billion a year in lost productivity.

Here is a great 10 minute video the RSA ran on Dan Pink’s talk about motivation inside his ‘Drive’ book:

He writes about a Hungarian psychology student called Mihaly Csikszentmihalhi who during his ph.D research at the University of Chicago psychology department set out to explore ‘the positive, innovative, creative approach to life’. Creativity took him in to the study of play, and in the midst of play he discovered that many people enjoyed what he called ‘’autotelic experiences’’ – from the Greek auto (self) and telos (goal or purpose).

In an autotelic experience, the goal is self-fulfilling; the activity is its own reward.

‘‘Throughout my athletics career, the overall goal was always to be a better athlete than I was at that moment – whether next week, next month or next year. The improvement was the goal. The medal was simply the ultimate reward for achieving that goal’’ – Sebastian Coe- Middle distance runner and two time Olympic gold medal winner

Csikszentmihali described this moment as ‘flow’. His research showed that the most satisfying experiences in people’s lives are when they were in ‘flow’ when they’re so deeply in the moment, and so utterly focused, time, place and even self melted away.

They were autonomous, but more than that they were totally engaged. As the poet W.H Auden wrote, ‘’forgetting themselves in a function.’’

So how can we help our teams to experience this feeling of engagement at work in order to get the best out of them?

One of the best known companies to take advantage of Motivation 3.0 is Google. They’re well known for offering their engineers 20% time as an employee benefit. They say that for 1 day a week they can work on whatever they want. They claim that this period of autonomy produces some of their most creative and innovative ideas. In a typical year, more than half of Googles’s offerings are birthed during this period of pure autonomy.



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