Motivation and the Time for Change

In the last few posts I’ve been taking a look at motivation, and I’ve been sharing some things I’ve gleaned from Dan Pink’s fabulous book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. To get the full feel of this particular post, you may want to read a couple of my previous ones.

From a business standpoint, Mr. Pink makes the point that business needs have changed over the past century. During the Industrial Revolution, our country needed workers who could perform rote, manual, repetitive work quickly. Gradually, machines began to take over functions that before had belonged to humans. Because many jobs were void of creativity, companies used the “carrots-and-sticks” method of extrinsic rewards.

Today, however, our economy has shifted to where a lot of industries require innovation and creativity to stay competitive. The carrots and sticks don’t work so well in this type of environment, so a shift must take place in the business world to create a new kind of motivation that goes beyond the external rewards so effective not long ago.

Job satisfaction really wasn’t to be expected in the past. Work was work, and people worked for a paycheck. (Many country music songs reflect this, don’t they?)

Not so anymore. Mr. Pink gives many examples of companies who are changing their structure and policies to reflect a concern for employees and their needs. Business owners are beginning to get it that certain things motivate more than others.

Micromanaging is on the way out.

I want to share with you the three components that Pink believes will revolutionize businesses upon implementation, but first I want to say that these three components are precisely what can also revolutionize education in America. Keep that in mind as you read over the following needs that employees (and students) have:

  1. Autonomy. Pink states that “our ‘default setting’ is to be autonomous and self-directed.” People should have control over “task (what they do), time (when they do it), team (who they do it with), and technique (how they do it).”
  2. Mastery. Pink’s definition of mastery is “becoming better at something that matters.” Businesses who want to be on the leading edge should give employees responsibilities and tasks that are not too hard and not too easy so their work will be suited to their abilities and just challenging enough to promote steady, personal growth.[1]
  3. Purpose. Believe it or not, some companies are actually looking beyond the bottom line and are seeking to make contributions to others on the planet. In the past, purpose was seen as “ornamental” to many companies, meaning it wasn’t the goal, but if it turned out to be a byproduct, that was a bonus. New policies that allow employees to pursue purpose will motivate folks because “humans, by their nature, seek purpose—to make a contribution and to be a part of a cause greater and more enduring than themselves.”[2]

Just as Dan Pink dares business owners and companies to rethink their outdated methodologies of managing employees in order to maximize human potential, creativity, and overall purpose in their lives, so I challenge educators and parents alike to rethink their outdated methodologies of micromanaging children in order to maximize the human potential for creativity, genius, and purpose in their lives.

Here’s a cool link to an RSA animation of Drive:  It’s worth your time, I promise.

[1] Daniel H. Pink, Drive, p. 222.

[2] Daniel H. Pink, Drive, p. 223.


About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.



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