Live from SHSMD ’11: Motivation in Pink

When SHSMD keynote Daniel Pink opened his presentation with “I’m going to talk about motivation from a nerdy perspective ­– science,” I was fairly sure I was going to enjoy his session. And, it delivered.

Pink’s talk centered around redefining motivation. What approach really works? He argues against the adage that rewards breed good behavior and punishment breeds bad.

“When the stick and carrot approach fails before your eyes, you don’t need more ‘carrots.’ You need a new approach,” Pink says. So, when it comes to organizations, what does drive employees to achieve more and do better?

Rethink management
Pink argues for management focused less on compliance (getting people to what you want them to do) and more on engagement. But, how do you engage people in your company’s purpose? Lance Secretan from last night’s keynote might chime in “Inspire them.” Pink says, “Relinquish control.” Allow them to get there by themselves. It’s the organization’s job to create opportunities for them to do so.

Dial up the autonomy
At Facebook, employees have direct involvement in the hiring of their team. Pink argues this kind of culture – this autonomy to shape and structure your professional life ­– can breed accountability. He encouraged the SHSMD crowd to have their staff take an “Autonomy Audit” (PDF) and see if what they think their staff will say matches reality.

Create opportunities for innovation
Ever heard of 10 percent time? It’s the idea that a company allows its employees to spend 10 percent of their time during work on their own pet projects. I was floored when Pink shared that Gmail was a 10% time project. Yes, Gmail. With greater autonomy and influence over their work, people tend to be motivated and yes, inspired.

Does 10% seem too much time to give? Try a FedEx day. This is one day that employees can spend time on anything, so long as they present their thoughts to the team the next day.

Both Secretan and Pink talked about motivation in their keynotes (albeit in very different ways). To me, the core idea is, as a leader, it’s key to always try new ways to innovative and inspire your staff. They just might take your company to some pretty exciting places.

What do you think?

~Kira, @cpmmarketing, CPM’s Digital Communications Coordinator