In 2011, I was at the London School of Economics (LSE). During my BA and MA years (several years earlier than 2011), I was increasingly interested in how decisions are made, why people react the way they do, where one should force things, and many more. I was introduced to behavioral economics. I went to LSE to specialize.
2011 was the year I got to know about behavioral economics’ masters: Daniel Pink, Dan Ariely, and Richard Thaler (Nobel Prize).
I will be reviewing several books they have written. This blog aims to review the most accessible author among the three I cited: Drive by Daniel Pink.
What behavioral economics are
Behavioral economics study judgement and choice. It provides a perspective to understand anomalies in the behavior of humans. Those have not been explained by the traditional economic models. Behavioral economics blends psychology and economics aiming at understanding the human behavior and their preferences. Behavioral economics are increasingly leveraged to enhance customer experience and employee experience, and other journeys in the citizen’s life.
What this book is about
This New York Times bestseller approaches motivation differently. For very long and among most organizations, it was thought that financial rewards are the best way to motivate humans and to get them to peak performance.
Daniel Pink wrote persuasively that the secret to motivation is the “human need to direct our own lives”.
His book is about how humans need to continuously learn, can create new things, and improve themselves and the world around us.
As much as Pink’s book is accessible, it still is the result of four decades of scientific research. He proactively unleashes a disconnect between What Sciences Knows and What Business Does. The book can be broken down into three primary themes that constitute the pillars for motivation based on Pink’s understanding
Autonomy. Mastery. Purpose
His book comprises stories from several organizations and entrepreneurs. It is also founded on scientific ground to suggest to readers a punchy way forward from carrot-and-stick to ownership.
Who Daniel Pink is
Daniel Pink is the author of six books (so far). Most of his books were named by leading institutions as provocative, bestselling, revolutionary, and more: Amazon, iBooks, Goodreads, New York Times, etc.
Even if you are not a fanatic reader or an economics lover, you must have watched his TED Talk on the science of motivation. It is one of the ten most watched talks of all times (20 million views).
To learn more about the author, you may check his personal website.
Why all this hype around behavioral economics
Behavioral economics is becoming very popular as it appeared to be a scientific way to make economics more accurate by injecting psychology and realistic assumptions about how people behave. Basically, behavioral economics is the smart combination of economic rigor and psychological agility.
Behavioral economics does not mean that organizations and governments need to pay hefty psychological interventions to make better decisions. It is in fact a very low-cost psychological intervention that behavioral economics refers to; what is called: Nudges.
What I liked the most about the book
I liked a lot of things about this book but the two primary reasons I highly recommend the book are related to
The framework that Pink formulated around the three pillars of motivation (autonomy, mastery, and purpose)
More precisely, I totally agree and relate to the autonomy pillar that Pink defends. When I used to work for Amazon there are two working habits that embody this pillar
If there is a better way, say it and do it (even if you fail)
Leaders are right a lot
As such, I cherish employers and leaders who believe in the people they hired. They trust them because they know what they are doing and because the organization needs them.
This book taught me to ask myself three questions whenever I lose my energy or step back. I pause. I draft (in writing) the answers to the following
What am I doing now?
How am I feeling?
Am I in the flow?
I also learned a key lesson when it comes to motivating my team and my colleagues. Since I read this book I lead with questions (not with answers), I engage in a conversation at all times and for any topic, I give feedback without guilt and blame, and I enable and encourage people around me to speak their mind.
What I liked less about the book
In most Pink books and talks I know of, he seems to miss a big portion of the working population. As much as we are going towards further robotization and digitalization, there are still plenty of jobs that require little creativity.
There are studies showing that Pink’s theory fails when applied to these jobs. The financial rewards still work as a motivator for algorithmic jobs.
What intrinsic motivation would someone find in a routine job?
My personal experience tells me that rewards still work as a motivator for non-creative and tedious jobs. Yet there are still approaches to motivating that are inexpensive (effective when combined with rewards)
Explain why the incumbent’s job is needed
Set expectations right in relation to the “boring” nature of the job
Enable management by objective (in Pink’s language: allow autonomy)
In a way, Pink missed this portion of the working force where there are ways his theory applies.
Who should read this book
Everyone is concerned by this book even at-home parents. There are great lessons for parents and educators in Pink’s book. Yet I think that the segment of people who must read this book are those transitioning in their career.
Those who are planning their “retirement”
Those who are shifting from a technical track into a managerial track
Those who are changing where they are based
Those who are reinventing their career
Those who are coming back to work after maternity, military service, etc.
Why read this book
Motivation is not a single action activity. Motivation is a journey that needs to be continually nurtured. Read this book is you are looking to maintain high levels of energy, to make better decisions, to show further engagement, and to find fulfillment in what you do.
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