Motivation 2.0 – Comments on Daniel Pink’s “Drive.”

“Traditional notions of management are great if you want compliance but if you want engagement, self direction works better.” Daniel Pink discusses the science of motivation in the 21st Century.

I am most of the way through Dan Pink’s most recent book called Drive.  He summarizes some of the social scientific conclusions regarding human motivations in the video presented but none is more surprising or exciting than the conclusion (routinely arrived at from numerous directions) that extrinsic motivators are having an increasingly negative effect on creativity.

He discusses these findings in the context of commerce.  I hear what he’s saying and move that this information should be heeded also by forward-thinking educators since the very things that cause the 20th Century idea of “management” to now work against the best interests of business are the same things that work against the best interests of school.  Asking students to fall into single file and to color inside the lines are fine if we aim to graduate docile and risk-averse worker-bees; these are not as useful for producing the creative problem solvers that our economy increasingly requires.

Mr. Pink points out that many necessary but process-based tasks have been either automated or farmed out to huge foreign work pools elsewhere in the world (the economic impact of these practices is beyond the scope of this entry).  As such is the case, it stands to reason that, increasingly, the job market that exists for the graduates of our schools will primarily select for the best and the brightest creative thinkers and DOERS (barring any catastrophic collapse of our economy…again beyond the scope of this entry).  Sadly, even though this is the case, very few of the assessment systems we have actually assess practical, creative, and solution-oriented characteristics of students.  Our assessment systems do not reward creativity as well as they reward regurgitation and, very often, those who do the latter well are selected for advancement.

It’s not as unfair as it sounds.  Increasingly, the very best natural problem solvers locate niches that serve themselves and society well (and often result in them becoming obscenely wealthy – Steven Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, etc…).  It would be a great thing for education, though, to do a better job of providing learners with the opportunities for Pink’s “autonomy, mastery, and purpose” sooner and on a more regular basis.  Rather than going through years of hardship and isolation, those learners whose motivations lie outside of the regular stream of inquiry and study could find flow and, ultimately, continue to regard learning as a sea of possibility for much longer in their lives.

The freedom to discover is the best motivator there can be…for students; for business; for anyone, really (True Fact)!  So why don’t we match up what we know with what we do?