Mr. Bossman: What's My Motivation, Money?

Madeleine Brand talks to author Daniel Pink about his latest book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Pink's 21st century business model is based on scientific evidence that when people are given more autonomy in their jobs, the rewards for both employee and employer are enormous. He says money can actually cause someone to work less effectively.

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BRAND, host:

Here's what most of us believe: the more money you pay someone - a worker, a CEO - the better the performance. In other words, money motivates.

Daniel Pink says no, that's not true. In fact, money can actually cause someone to work less effectively. He's the author of the new book "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us."

Welcome to the program.

Mr. DANIEL PINK (Author, "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us"): Madeleine, it's great to be here.

BRAND: So that is, indeed, a surprising truth. You call it the Tom Sawyer effect.

Mr. PINK: Right. Right.

BRAND: That's your phrase that you coined, named after Tom Sawyer, the fictional character who, in the early part of the book, has to whitewash some fences. And somehow he gets these kids to do it for him. How does he do that?

Mr. PINK: He convinces them that it's fun. Now there's a little duplicity here, but what the Sawyer effect is is that adding a sense of autonomy and mastery to an otherwise dreary task can turn something that is work into playfulness. By the same token, paying somebody to do something they really love to do can often turn play into work.

BRAND: So it becomes drudgery - something that...

Mr. PINK: In some ways, yeah. There's a lot of research that shows that if you apply a contingent, external rewards on something that's inherently interesting, you can actually extinguish someone's interest in that activity. There's a famous study where a whole group of kids who liked to draw, and if you brought them in and said if you draw I'll give you a shiny certificate, the kids would draw, and then two weeks later they were no loner interested in drawing - that this intrinsic motivation is very fragile, and a lot of times these external motivators can dampen it.

BRAND: And so that can be applied to work.

Mr. PINK: Absolutely. Human beings have a natural urge for autonomy, and there's some really cool, interesting examples of companies giving workers almost a radical dose of autonomy. Let me give you a cool example of this.

There's an Australian company called Atlassian - software company - and they do something once a quarter where they say to their software developers: You can work on anything you want, any way you want, with whomever you want, you just have to show the results to the rest of the company at the end of 24 hours.

They call these things FedEx days, because you have to deliver something overnight. That one day of intense autonomy has produced a whole array of software fixes, a whole array of ideas for new products, a whole array of upgrades for existing products.

BRAND: But are you talking about a small, select group of workers, and this is this sort of knowledge-based sector of the economy, and that, really, the rest of it is service-oriented. It's kind of rote work where people have to get to work at a certain time...

Mr. PINK: Sure.

BRAND: ...do a certain amount of things and then leave at a certain time.

Mr. PINK: Sure. Actually, this applies very broadly throughout the workplace. And some of the most interesting examples are of high performance through intrinsic motivation and through autonomy are in jobs we consider fairly low autonomy or low skill.

Let's take call centers. Call centers are very difficult jobs. Typically, a call comes in, you listen to the call, you tap some keys on your computer and it calls up a script and you read the script - very routine work. Well, there's a company called Zappos that has done call centers in a totally different way. They say to the...

BRAND: Because it's a shoe company.

Mr. PINK: It's a shoe company.

BRAND: Yeah.

Mr. PINK: They say to their workers solve the customer's problem any way you want. They don't time the calls. They don't monitor the calls. The representatives don't have scripts. Now this seems insane in the world of call centers. Low and behold, Zappos is one of the top rated customer service firms. A lot of our businesses presume that but for a carrot, human beings would just sit there inertly and not do anything, and that's wrong.

I mean, we are wired to be active and engaged, not passive and inert. And I think it's, in many ways, our context that makes us passive and inert. But if we change the context, I think all of us can kind of awaken that real sense, that scientifically validated sense of autonomy and purpose and the desire to do things because they're fun and interesting.

BRAND: Daniel Pink is the author of the new book "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us."

Thank you.

Mr. PINK: Great to be here.

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