If I Give You Twenty Bucks, Will You Read This Blog Post?

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

According to Daniel Pink in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, everything you know about what motivates people is probably wrong.

According to his research on the latest discoveries about the mind, the idea that people can only be motivated by the hope of gain and the fear of loss is out of date.

You might find this book either in the  business or the self-help section of the bookstore. There’s one thing that I find those types of books often have in common.  Someone comes up with a fairly simple but new premise and then they make a really good, long article into a “book” by citing lots of studies and examples.

That doesn’t mean these types of books are bad books. I often enjoy them – but I do a lot more skimming and skipping than I normally do when reading.

One assertion by Pink is that we have a “third drive” and its one that causes us to do our most creative and best work without extrinsic motivation.

Think about how parents, schools, and employers all use extrinsic motivation – stickers, awards, bonuses, salaries, titles and all the rest – and then think about how they probably don’t do much or anything to activate the “third drive.”

Why am I writing this blog?  There is no real extrinsic motivation. No pay or awards.  I guess I do it for its “intrinsically pleasing qualities.”

Would extrinsic motivators (like a paycheck) turn off the “third drive” to write here?  If it was my “job” would I find it less appealing?

In the book, Pink points to a lot of studies that show that rewards and punishments can actually reduce the ability of workers to produce creative solutions to problems.

Is that the idea behind Google’s 80/20 model? Google engineers are encouraged to take 20 percent of their time to work on something company-related that interests them personally. The idea is that people work better when they’re involved in something they’re passionate about. Out of that 20 percent time came Gmail, Google News and some thing most of us don’t see like the Google shuttle buses that bring employees to work.

More of the business side of the book comes out in Best Buy’s Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) which has also been experimented with at GAP stores and other employers.  Employees can work whenever and however they choose, as long as they meet specific goals.

So, one your basic needs are satisfied, what motivates you to grow, develop, and strive to reach your full potential?

Daniel Pink also thinks these methods can move from business to personal goals (like fitness) or parenting.

Are you his  “Type X” individual who just wants a reward? Or are you a  “Type I” person in it for the love of it?

Being that I work in education, I want to make the leap that the book doesn’t really make to motivating learning.  If you think about those times when students want to learn and do so on their own without being asked (and yes, this does occur), can you target the why of when that happens?

Pink’s keys seem to be autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  How do you use them to motivate?  Or is “using them” exactly what will make them NOT work?

Which leads me to my second reading from the past few weeks – an article in Time magazine called “Is Cash the Answer?” that is about experiments in paying students to achieve.

The idea sounds radical, and yet it’s not so different from any job. Teachers are usually not in favor of these programs since they think you are rewarding kids for doing what they should be doing of their own volition.

Psychologists caution that money can kill performance by “cheapening” the act of learning.

Parents – perhaps speaking from their own experiences at home with rewards – predict that after the money goes away, so does the motivation.

And, since many of these programs are in inner-city schools, the programs have even been called racist.

The focus of the article is the work of a Harvard economist, Roland Fryer Jr.  His randomized experiment in hundreds of classrooms in multiple cities used mostly private money to pay 18,000 kids a total of $6.3 million in motivation. It’s the largest study of financial incentives in the classroom.

Now, he and his researchers at the education-innovation laboratory is using the scientific method to figure out how to close the learning gap between America’s white and minority kids.

The experiment was run in Chicago, Dallas, Washington and New York using different models of incentives (some kids were paid for good test scores, some for not fighting with one another).

The results varied, including almost a total lack of positive results in some models. But there were also very positive results. Payments can boost kids’ performance as much as or more than many other reform methods. Sure, it costs money, but so do those other approaches, and some cost a lot more than paying the students.

Is money the solution? Not entirely. But, at least for some kids, it seems to be part of the solution.

I guess where the experiments leaves off for now is the important part – What happens when the monetary rewards are gone? Did it create a  self-motivated adults?

What motivated you to read this post to the end?

How many of you reading this last sentence will be motivated to go further on your own and  read the Time article or Daniel Pink’s book?

Books by Daniel Pink
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future
The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need
Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself

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A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

2 thoughts on “If I Give You Twenty Bucks, Will You Read This Blog Post?”

  1. I remember good ole Maslow and Herzberg….

    Motivation depends on how we interpret recognition for our efforts once our basic desires for food and shelter are satisfied.A great story by the Dalai Llama
    …he loves and desires fresh strawberries and when he went to the green grocers he saw a bundle of fresh strawberries and realized he had the money to purchase them and walked away without buying them because… he did not “need” them to be satisfied.

    Would you still write these blogs if the the feedback was that they sucked?

    * Flow – Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Proposed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.

    * Why Work?
    Motivating the New Workforce
    How personal values influence motivation and desire.

    “Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.” Wm. Blake

    PS BTW Keep posting!


  2. You would write even if there were no comments because you found what you want to do. The secret – for students too – is to help them find that.


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