Shut up and Drive...

Despite the provocative title of the post, I won't be angry at you for long! Nor is this is a plug for Google Drive - the brilliant Dan Fitzpatrick has already espounded the benefits of this in his blog post, Why Aren't You Using Google Drive? As a bit of a deviation from the G-Suite for a minute, I want to talk about a brilliant book by Steven H. Pink, Drive, which is really challenging the way I am thinking about work and education.

This brilliant book from 2011 encourages businesses to learn from behavioural science and cognitive psychology that the accepted norms of motivation are not cutting the mustard in 2017. Pink bases his thesis on the shoulders of giants in the field, including Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who states,

"If we know what that set point is, we can predict fairly accurately when you will be in flow, and it will be when your challenges are higher than average and skills are higher than average."

Pink challenges the traditional carrot-and-stick motivational methodology, which he labels Motivation 2.0. He suggests that this model is simply functional and only works in certain circumstances, despite it being the prevailing model in almost every sector - schools, businesses, sports. It centres on extrinsic motivators - things outside of a person that can be used to leverage work ethic - rewards, punishments, financial incentives, micro-management. Pink suggests that this only works in situations where the task is pretty robotic - following prescriptive instructions to complete a task - on a production line or building flat-packed furniture. This Type X (extrinsic) behaviour leads to high staff turnover and decreased productivity in more complex environments, however. He offers example after example as evidence to support this premise.

In order to achieve anything lasting, he discusses Type I behaviours - looking at intrinsic motivators. Pink says that if the baseline compensation (salary, perhaps) is at a satisfactory standard, then giving people freedom to pursue purpose and find motivation in why they do what they do, yields greater results. He studies Google's 20% time and 3M's 15% projects, as models of giving workers autonomy and allow for creativity, if you want to keep good staff and get the best from them. I love the mantra of the multi-academy trust, United Learning, which is 'The Best in Everyone' but I think that these types of self-organised learning and work projects could lead to the best of everyone and the best from everyone. Pink suggests there are three main features of good intrinsically-motivated projects: autonomy, mastery and purpose.


This is the desire to direct our own lives. Pink argues that allowing employees autonomy runs counter to the traditional view of management which wants employees to "comply" with what is required of them. However, if managers want the best from their employees, self-direction is better.

Pink suggests that autonomy needs to be evident in four key areas: time (do we need to be in 9-5 or is there flexibility for me to work when I am most productive? Is the clock-in/out methodology outdated and unnecessary?), technique (do we need to do things how they've always been done or can we rethink the processes?), team (do I have to work with specific people or can I choose my colleagues?) and task (can my work be more about things I am interested in and could improve the company's products at the same time?

There is acknowledgement that this freedom to spend time doing their own thing leads to more innovative ideas and more effective solutions. The growth of flexible working practices is another good example of allowing staff more autonomy. For example, providing the technology and freedom to work from home.


Pink describes mastery as the "desire to continually improve at something that matters". Humans tend to enjoy the satisfaction that comes from personal achievement and progress. Allowing employees to enjoy a sense of progress at work contributes to their inner drive - their intrinsic motivation. But, a lack of opportunity at work to develop or improve is likely to make employees more bored and demotivated, especially if the employee is highly competent.

A key implication for employers to is to set tasks for employees that are neither too easy or too challenging. Pink calls such tasks "Goldilocks tasks" - i.e.. tasks that are not "too hot or too cold". Goldilocks tasks push employees out of their comfort zones, and allow them to stretch themselves and develop their skills and experience further. Mastery then becomes fulfilling in itself and doesn't need a reward or punishment to get better at something.


Pink describes purpose as the desire to do things in service of something larger than ourselves - finding your why, something that Simon Sinek has covered exceedingly well on several occasions. Pink argues that people intrinsically want to do things that matter. For example, entrepreneurs are often intrinsically motivated to "make a difference" rather than simply aiming to maximise profits. We want our time at work to matter, not just completing tasks. If an employer can add value to a person then that person is more likely to work harder and stay for longer.

So, a key part of ensuring work has purpose is to ensure that the mission and goals of the organisation are properly communicated to employees. Employees need to know and understand these, and appreciate how their work and role fits into what the organisation is about. This means that employees can know whether they can align themselves or not and then work or leave accordingly.

I think the implications of this theory to education are profound. I haven't fully comprehended how a self-directed school is possible - I certainly have seen the use of SOLE (Self-Organised Learning Environments) in classrooms give students autonomy and the mastery element of many of the UK's new KS3 curriculum areas is already evident. Many students have even found purpose through the options process at GCSE and A-Level. My area of enquiry and interest will be in how teachers can be given more autonomy, mastery and purpose in their job role - heaven knows, we cannot afford to lose any more good people from the profession!

#drive #motivations #education #autonomy #purpose #mastery #books #collaboration


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