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Secrets of Motivation

August 12, 2010

In Drive, Daniel Pink takes the reader through decades of research on performance psychology, and then builds a big picture to what he believes are the keys to human motivation: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.

He brings up “The Sawyer Effect,” which is attributed to Tom Sawyer, who when asked to paint his aunt’s fence, was struck by a great revelation. His friends came to mock his unfortunate situation, except that Tom didn’t seem to be so sad. And, when his friends asked to paint with him, he refused until Huck Finn gave him his apple. Thus, work was turned into play.

Moreover, another researcher wanted to test the effect of money on the creative output of painters. She asked a number of painters to randomly choose a certain number of commissioned works and an identical number of noncommissioned works and asked a jury of curators and experts to rate the works on technical quality and creativity. The noncommissioned works were consistently rated higher in creativity and no lower in technical quality than the commissioned ones, with the painters saying that the money might have cramped their creativity because they felt they had to abide to the payer’s requests. And in a way, play is turned into work.

Mr. Pink also talks about research by the famous Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, in which she gives a group of schoolchildren a set of math concepts and problems for them to solve. And then, after they’ve demonstrated the ability to solve the first set, she presented them with another set they were not supposed to solve because it was above their age math level. Students who had a learning mindset (those who see this as a stepping stone towards mastery) about the whole thing performed much better and were more creative in their solutions than students who had a performance mindset (those who wanted to achieve a certain result.)

There are many other examples, and that’s what I like about this book, a lot of it is based on scientific research, which is very refreshing. I believe this is an important book, and a must read especially for managers or people considering entrepreneurship as a lifestyle. In these times, where creativity (rather than mindless labor) is key to success, such ideas have to be learned and taught.

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From → Self-Improvement

6 Comments
  1. Oh man, if only you wrote this review some 4 weeks ago =) I will try to get it as soon as I can! I always believed that your priorities are what matters in this life, a change in personality or mentality is a mere manifestation of a change in priorities =) Btw, now that you have more than 10 posts, why do not you submit your blog to qwaider and jordanblogs?

  2. Haitham,

    What are the benefits of submitting to Qwaider and JB?

  3. Man, You drive more traffic to your site! Which is a good thing, most of the people who lurk there are smart commenters!

  4. Sure, I guess I’ll submit it then. Thanks.

  5. Very nice, I’m glad that people your age are taking a long hard look at these issues and trying to read, learn and grow in this direction.

    My personal favorite motivational theory is Vroom’s expectancy theory of motivation. This is a very scientific approach to understanding motivation and it states that

    motivation is determined by individuals beliefs regarding performance and work outcome

    Or simply: Motivation=Expectancy X Instrumentality X Valence
    Which simply means that if you give someone a job that he CAN do, and that his work will result in rewards that he values then his motivation will be or low based on the result of this simple formula

  6. Qwaider,

    I like the directness of the formula, I have to start using it more often.

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