Pink tells Business Forum freedom is the best motivator (video link)

By wayne.steffen on November 1, 2011 @ 8:29am

Don't manage employees, engage them.

"Management is a technology from the 1850s," author Daniel Pink said at FPU's 2011 Business Forum. About 930 people gathered for breakfast October 26 in the Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center New Exhibit Hall in downtown Fresno. "How many technologies from the 1850s are in use today?"

The goal of management is compliance. People, however, do great things when they are engaged, and a half century of social science research shows engagement comes from self-direction, not the traditional carrots and sticks.

A study funded by the Federal Reserve Bank illustrates the problem: groups of workers received increasingly large amounts of money for doing a series of tasks. Researchers found more money improved productivity among people doing simple, repetitive work, but, Pink said, "Once the task called for even rudimentary cognitive skills, a larger reward led to poorer performance."

Money motivates only those employees worried about having too little. "The best way to use money is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table," Pink said.

Another study, this one by Harvard Business School, offers a solution: experts judged 460 artworks, some commissioned by clients, others entirely the product of the artists' imagination. Though the commissioned works were equal technically to the noncommissioned works, they were less creative.

Commissions came with constraints from clients, Pink said, while the artists did a better job—were engaged—with freedom, which employees don't have. "Everything people do on the job is commissioned," he added.

Google and Intuit give employees free time to pursue their ideas, while keeping the rights to what is created. Google News and Gmail are two products developed on "noncommission" time. "That's where the world is going," Pink said.

After breakfast Pink visited the main FPU campus. He spoke to students, faculty and staff during College Hour in the Special Events Center and to community and campus leaders at a luncheon in Ashley Auditorium.

Pink is the author of several books on the world of work. His latest, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, is aNew York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Publishers Weekly bestseller.

Articles by Pink have appeared in the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company and Wired, where he is a contributing editor. Pink also writes a monthly business column for the U.K. newspaper, The Sunday Telegraph, and has provided analysis of business trends on CNN, CNBC, ABC, NPR and other networks.

A former political speechwriter, Pink received a B.A. from Northwestern University, where he was Phi Beta Kappa, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and three children.

The FPU Business Forum seeks to inspire the community on topics central to the university: leadership, ethics and values, creating healthy communities and organizations. Past speakers have included Blake Mycoskie, Ken Blanchard, John Maxwell and John Wooden.