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June 04, 2019 Tuesday 01:29:13 PM IST



In his 2009 best seller,‘Drive’, Daniel Pink provides a new dimension for workplace motivation, which he labels ‘Motivation 3.0’. His justification for this term is that it's an advancement from primitive survival (‘Motivation 1.0’) and from the culture of reward and punishment that we find in most organisations (‘Motivation 2.0’). Nowadays, our work life is going through a massive shift. The really treasured work currently is the creative type that can’t be automised. Daniel Pink calls this type of work heuristic, because you need to think your way out of the problem and can’t just follow a blueprint. The opposite to that is algorithmic work: straight forward, automised task, which is exactly the kind of work defined to be perfect for motivation 2.0.

Pink's theory is inspired from studies undertaken by psychologists Harry Harlow and Edward Deci in 1971. They found that rewards can fail to enhance individual's engagement with tasks, and may even harm it. Pink claims that conventional‘carrot and stick’tactics to motivation are becoming archaic, and do not effectively address the needs of the creative and innovative workplaces of the 21st century. So, if organizations want to attract and retain their most valuable talent - the ones that do heuristic work - it is essential for them to make a transition from carrots and sticks towards motivation 3.0. According to Daniel Pink, motivation 3.0 has three main constituents. It comprises autonomy, mastery and purpose. To have all three components in place is crucial to make employees in modern working environments flourish and allow them to do their best creative work.


Autonomy relates to the ability of individuals to direct their own work and have space to test, to make mistakes and to learn. It is linkedto freedom. A sense of autonomy has a significant effect on individual performance and attitude.A ‘FedEx Day’is aunique practice adopted by Atlassian Company in Australia. Once each quarter, on a Thursday afternoon, all software developers are asked to work on anything they want during the next 24- hour period, as long as it is not part of their routine job.As a result, lots of valuable and fruitfulinnovations happened that would not have occurred if employees had been required to adhere with their ‘day jobs’. One of Google's most celebrated management philosophies is called ‘Google 20% time’. They have long stimulated its employees to dedicate 20 percent of their time to side projects, which is one reason why it remains one of the most innovative organizations in the world.For firms that invest in side project initiatives, the outcomes can be unbelievable: Gmail, Google Maps, Twitter, Slack, and Groupon all kicked off as side projects. The concept of 20 percent time is not a new one. You may be astonished to learn that 3M initiated it in the 1950's with their 15% Project. The result? ‘Post-it’ and masking tape. The quote of William L. McKnight, the chairman of 3M board, captures the essence of autonomy:“Hire good people and leave them alone".


Mastery is the craving to improve. If you are inspired by mastery, you'll likely see your potential as being limitless, and you'll continuously seek to advance your skills through learning and practice. Someone who pursues mastery needs to achieve it for its own sake. For instance, an athlete who is driven by mastery might want to run as fast as she possibly can. Any accolades that she obtains are less significant than the process of continuous improvement. In ancient Japan, martial artists spent years for learning a meditative state called ‘Mushin’. Once learnt, fighters shed their fear entirely and they were free to move and strike with no reluctance. Thus, they became juggernauts, match for hundreds. If you ever felt totallyabsorbed in an activity, you might have been undergoing a mental state that positive psychologist MihályCsíkszentmihályi refer to as flow. He labels the mental state of flow as being fully involved in an activity for its own sake. In his book titled ‘Flow’, Csíkszentmihályiclarifies that flow is likely to occur when a person is faced with a task that has clear goals that require specific responses. For instance, brain scans have revealed that when the rappers improvise, the brain activities accountable for self-consciousness drops. In other words, they switch to the flow.


In the 21st century, individualsno longer work for personal gains, but also want to make the world a better place in the process. It can be a powerful motivator if you can give workforce a higher vision that their work is contributing to. People may become disconnected and demotivated at work if they don't appreciate, or can't invest in, the ‘bigger picture’.  Microsoft Encarta started way back in the mid-1990s. They paid experts to design and write an online encyclopaedia. Project management practices were employed to ensure it was finished on time and in agreement with all the stipulations from leadership. In stark contrast, Wikipedia was introduced in 2001 using thousands of mostly anonymous online volunteers to build an encyclopaedia. Rather than commercializing the encyclopaedia, Wikipedia made it freely accessible to the public on the World Wide Web. Wikipedia compensated its online volunteers by uniting them in a shared purpose and providing special public recognition for those who ‘went the extra mile’ with their contributions. Wikipedia was about being part of a revolution to build a shared body of knowledge for the world.In motivation 3.0, purpose maximisation is more important than profit maximisation.

In our modern times, individuals are driven by more than just rewards and punishments. People who are highly skilled, creative and capable of making a real impact on the world, are very sensitive when it comes to motivation. They want work on their own terms (autonomy), need to keep updating themselves (mastery) and wanted a big picture of their contribution through work (purpose). All this is what motivation 3.0 offers them.

Dr. Manu Melwin Joy

The writer is an Assistant Professor at School of Management Studies, CUSAT

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