Q & A with Best-Selling Author Daniel Pink: On Motivation 3.0

Daniel Pink is the author of several provocative, best-selling books about the changing world of work. His latest is Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, which uses 40 years of behavioral science to overturn the conventional wisdom about human motivation and offer a more effective path to high performance.

Another of Pink's books, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, charts the rise of right-brain thinking in modern economies and describes the six abilities individuals and organizations must master in an outsourced, automated age. A Whole New Mind is a long-running New York Times and BusinessWeek bestseller that has been translated into 21 languages. It's also a personal favorite.

Pink's articles on business and technology appear in many publications, including the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Wired, where he is a contributing editor.

A free agent himself, Dan held his last real job in the White House, where he served from 1995 to 1997 as chief speechwriter to Vice President Al Gore. He also worked as an aide to U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich and in other positions in politics and government.

On top of all this, I can say that Dan is a nice guy. On a personal note, a few years ago, after I read A Whole New Mind, I emailed Dan telling him how inspiring the book was to me. A day later, Dan replied with an offer of 3 autographed books to share with my right-brained friends. I'm not the only one who has been influenced by Dan Pink. In my phone interview with Triathlete, Brendan Brazier, he spoke of being inspired by Dan years ago when he saw him speak in Seattle.

MindBodyGreen: Biggest surprise you had while researching/writing Drive?

Daniel Pink: I was surprised by how vast the research was on human motivation, and how much it overturned orthodoxies I didn't even realize were orthodoxies.

MBG: What was the most fun you had during Drive?

DP: Probably spending time with Mihaly Cszikszentmihalyi, who's been a hero of mine for years and whose book, Flow, is one of my all-time favorites.

MBG: If there's one simple message you'd like to get across in this book, what would it be?

DP: Carrots and sticks work, but only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances. For enduring motivation and high performance, autonomy, mastery, and purpose are much better.

MBG: Biggest misconception about motivation?

DP: That people are simply slightly more enlightened horses who respond only to carrots and sticks.

MBG: What is the new approach that business needs to take to motivate people on how to operate post economic meltdown?

DP: I think many businesses need to get back to first principles: delighting customers, challenging employees, and making a contribution. The days of the quick score are over. I hope. Also, in a downturn, companies don't have all that many carrots to offer. They'll have to work harder to truly engage people.

MBG: Could you elaborate on autonomy, mastery, purpose?

DP: Autonomy is our urge to direct our own lives. Mastery is our desire to get better and better at something that matters. Purpose is our yearning to connect to something larger than ourselves. All are the building blocks of a more effective, and more humane, approach to motivation.

MBG: How does this all relate to athletes and 21st century coaching/sports?

DP: Great question. The best athletes are actually quite intrinsically motivated. They want to win, of course. But more important, they want to be excellent -- they want to achieve mastery. If more coaches, especially in youth sports, had the same emphasis, it would do a world of good.

MBG: Favorite quote?

DP: "The guy who invented the wheel? He was an idiot. The guy who invented the other three. He was a genius." -- Sid Caesar

MBG: Guilty indulgence?

DP: Cheese fries.

MBG: Why should we run out and buy Drive right now?

DP: Because it will help you see your work and your life in a new light -- and it has sets of tools, tips, and exercises to help you work smarter and live better.

Check out Daniel Pink talk about motivation and Drive at TED:

For more on Daniel Pink and Drive:
Drive on Amazon.com

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