by Justin Standfield
In January 2010, Daniel Pink gave a talk at the RSA in London that marked the release of his book ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’. A few months later, the RSA stripped out some soundbites from that talk, commissioned Cognitive Media to add some cool whiteboard cartoons to accompany the words, and then posted the video on YouTube.
As at today, it’s had over 17 million views. If you work in personal development, coaching or leadership development you’d have to have been living under a rock not to have seen this animation at least once or twice. Like me, you’ve probably shared it with leaders at some point to illustrate the surprising truth about what actually motivates human beings.
I recently took part in a (socially-distanced) event to revisit the contents of Daniel Pink’s full talk at the RSA. In the era of the pandemic and all of the changes it has triggered to do with how, where, with whom – and even whether – we work, the three main points of ‘Drive’ are as relevant today as they were 10 years ago. These three things that fuel intrinsic motivation are:
- Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives;
- Mastery – the urge to get better and better at something that matters;
- Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
As part of the recent event, we focused on the fact that a certain amount of our motivation comes from within. As Daniel Pink highlighted, many of us are more intrinsically motivated than extrinsically; however, it’s important to remember that external motivators (so called “carrots and sticks”) still have their role play too. Participants shared many examples of people and businesses that had ‘pivoted’ during the pandemic in order to accomplish something meaningful for their communities. These stories showed that success is frequently measured by the task itself and not by an external reward, for many people. This has been particularly evident through the actions taken by people who have been willing to contribute their time, energy and expertise to complete strangers during the first lockdown.
The era of COVID-19 has had far too many effects on mental health, wellbeing, self esteem, relationships and resilience to cover in a short blog article like this – besides, there are so many organisations who have conducted credible research in this area and continue to do so as the year comes to a close. However, taking part in the event has reminded me to encourage any leader who’s wondering how to support their employees to get their mojo back in a meaningful way, to watch Daniel Pink’s extended talk at the RSA and to get hold of a copy of his book, ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us‘.
Even though it may feel like the world as we know it has been turned on its head this year, there are still opportunities to increase our levels of autonomy, mastery and purpose. If I can help you with that in any way, just get in touch.
Justin Standfield is a Fellow of the RSA (the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures & Commerce), an organisation that’s been at the forefront of social impact since the 1700s.