Daniel H. Pink, an author and former speechwriter for then-Vice President Al Gore, spoke about motivation at the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford, England, last summer. TED is a nonprofit whose focus is "Ideas worth spreading" and which distributes talks on many subjects at http://www.ted.com/. Pink's best-selling books include "DRIVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates US" and "A WHOLE NEW MIND: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future," which has been translated into 21 languages. Pink's Web site is http://www.danpink.com/
What really motivates us? And what motivational techniques lead us to work smarter and live better? Those are questions that behavioral scientists around the world have been exploring for the past half-century. Their answers might surprise you.
In laboratory experiments and field studies, a band of psychologists, sociologists and economists have found that many carrot-and-stick motivators -- the elements around which we build most of our businesses and many of our schools -- can be effective, but that they work in only a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances.
For enduring motivation, the science shows, a different approach is more effective. This approach draws not on our biological drive or our reward-and-punishment drive, but on what we might think of as our third drive: Our innate need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.
In particular, high performance -- especially for the complex, conceptual tasks we're increasingly doing on the job -- depends far more on intrinsic motivators than on extrinsic ones.