The intrinsic value of work: Dan Pink & Drive

When it comes to explorations of how to motivate and engage workers doing skilled or technical work, there’s no better starting point than the work of Dan Pink. His book Drive is an excellent starting point for discussions of how organizations can unleash the creative potential of their people.

It’s no surprise that Pink’s TED Talk on the subject is one of the top 20 most watched talks (though I find the below RSA Animate interpretation of his talk to be a bit more comprehensive and entertaining, while still being shorter, clocking in around 11 min).

Pink’s argument, for those unfamiliar with it, is that the traditional business approach of rewarding talent through some combination of “Carrots & Sticks” – rewards packages and performance management for people who don’t perform – leads to lower performance for workers in the knowledge economy.

Instead, Pink finds that 3 intrinsic motivators drive success and creativity of these workers:

  • Autonomy – the ability to be self-directed in how you work
  • Mastery – the ability to develop and demonstrate achievement in your professional talents
  • Purpose – the belief that your work has meaning and impact to the internal organization, its clients, or even the world at large

In our work at WorkLifeValue, we fully see these motivators at play. A well-crafted People Value Proposition – the comprehensive and unique experience an organization offers its people – pulls on all of these levers. And an organization which successfully provides all 3:

  • Autonomy, in the life people lead inside work and out;
  • Mastery, through the growth opportunities and engaging challenges people experience;
  • Purpose, in providing meaningful and impactful work for their people to engage in everyday;

is going to see success in retaining and recruiting the talent the need to succeed.

And as for money, as Pink says, by providing the compensation and perks that people expect for their skills and “taking money off the table”, you keep them focused on creating, innovating and delivering value for the organization every moment of every day.

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