What if one of the most fundamental tenets of business management used by the vast majority of companies today is all wrong? What’s more, what if scientists had proved it wrong over and over starting decades ago, but that research has been routinely ignored – maybe even suppressed – by the business community?

Those are among the dramatic suggestions of a new book by Daniel H. Pink, who says it is time to reboot the way we motivate people in business, in education, and even in our personal lives. “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” is the kind of book that is designed to attack your preconceived notions. In this case, we’re discussing how commonly held ideas about motivation in the form of reward and punishment, the so-called carrot-and-stick approach, are not the most effective way to spur people in business.

Pink presents convincing arguments and authoritative academic research to support that theory. He shows how time and again external rewards such as money are trumped by intrinsic motivation when it comes to really producing results, especially in the arena of our increasingly creative driven economy. Pink offers study after study backed up with real world case histories showing the triumph of intrinsic motivation over the standard incentive tools we’ve become accustomed to, such as raises and bonuses.

Using a computer operating system version metaphor, Pink describes the earliest form of motivation, the drive for basic survival, as Motivation 1.0. He calls the current popular methods based on reward and punishment Motivation 2.0. What he is calling for is a new system entirely that he calls Motivation 3.0. The idea is to tap the tremendous potential for creative industry that comes when workers are driven to tackle a project more because they are innately captured by it than because the boss says so.

One prime example he cites is the 20-percent program at Google, in which employees are allowed to work on projects entirely of their own choosing for 20 percent of their time. If you use Google News or G-Mail, you are familiar with the results. Some of Google’s best new products have come from 20-percent time.

While not everything Pink says rings true for the woodworking industry, it does bear study. Increasingly I hear shop owners talk about employees responding less than expected to monetary incentives. And some of his suggestions about increasing employee autonomy, mastery and purpose also ring true based on a few exceptional woodworking companies I’ve visited.

Whether you agree or disagree with the conclusions, the book is well written and an enjoyable read with plenty of tools to apply the concepts. There’s even a section with suggestions on how to motivate yourself for a successful exercise program. Check it out.

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