Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us is fantastic and I will be blogging on it if I get the chance. One of his points is that extrinsic motivators often back-fire and decrease commitment to a task. We shouldn’t dismiss extrinsic motivation altogether, but it needs to be very secondary and used right. The primary way to motivate is create the conditions that foster intrinsic motivation–that tap the inherent worth of the task. Which usually means simply making sure not to get in the way of how people are naturally motivated.
Extrinsic motivation is most relevant when a task is routine. But when it comes to creative tasks and the typical nonroutine tasks of the knowledge worker, extrinsic motivation can decrease not only commitment to the task, but also the original and creative thought that is necessary to finding your way.
Here are the seven deadly flaws of the “carrot and stick” approach (extrinsic motivation) that he discusses in chapter 2:
- They can extinguish intrinsic motivation
- They can diminish performance
- They can crush creativity
- They can crowd out good behavior
- They can encourage cheating, shortcuts, and unethical behavior
- They can become addictive
- They can foster short-term thinking
Again, his point is not that extrinsic motivation is always bad, but that it can be.