Professional Growth

Motivation 3.0 – Daniel Pink on the future of motivation

motivation daniel pink
Written by Moritz Schröder

Motivation 3.0 is a concept that the author Daniel Pink describes in his book “Drive – The surprising truth about what motivates us”. There he lays out the evolution of motivational concepts and what really drives us as human beings. In this post I will summarise the evolution of motivation and point out why making the shift to motivation 3.0 is so essential.

About Motivation

Motivation is one of the – if not the – most crucial factor on your way to success. You cannot hope to become successful if you are not motivated. Without motivation you are bound to fall behind and fail, since the path to success is way too difficult to endure it without enormous motivation.

On the other hand, if you are motivated enough you can (on a long enough time span) achieve almost anything. People have made the impossible possible, purely driven by their intense motivation. Motivation is what gets us up in the morning, gets us through the days and gives our lives a purpose that is bigger than the sum of its parts.

Throughout the history of mankind motivation has changed and evolved, always adapting to the changes in  society itself. It shifted from motivation 1.0 to motivation 2.0 and now, quite recently, to motivation 3.0. This shift towards motivation 3.0 will change the way that companies operate, the way people do their work and the way our society functions in general.

To understand the importance of this shift, we have to understand how motivation changed over time. So let’s have a look at the evolution of motivation!

Motivation 1.0

When the human species just developed – around 50.000 years ago – we were still very primitive creatures. Our priorities included eating, procreating and avoiding to die. These were the drive behind all human actions at that time. Whatever humans did back then was motivated by survival and reproduction. It was a pretty straightforward operating system that the human race ran on: motivation 1.0.

motivation 3.0And while it seems simple, it served its purpose. The basic needs were covered, basic needs that still are very much in place nowadays. Just think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: If the bottom ones (food, sex, shelter) aren’t fulfilled, don’t even think about reaching for the higher ones.

Motivation 2.0

But this is exactly what humanity did after a while. People wanted more, needs evolved, society became more complex and with increasing complexity came a new motivation system. As people started forming collaborations and companies it became necessary to find motivations that would make people work even when the work was not directly related to survival and reproduction.

This was the emergence of motivation 2.0. It is based on motivating through reward and punishment, also known as carrots and sticks (click the link to get detailed information on when carrots and sticks work, and when not).

And this worked really well for a long time as well. Especially throughout the industrial revolution, which brought simple, standardised, routine work to a major part of the population, motivation 2.0 was the ideal way to motivate workers. It is was the operating system that fit the working environment best. Until it didn’t.

Motivation 3.0

Recently our work life is going through a massive shift again. The really valuable work nowadays is the creative type that can’t be automised. Daniel Pink calls this kind of work heuristic, because you need to think for yourself in order to reach results and can’t just follow a blueprint. The opposite to that is algorithmic work: simple, automised tasks, which is exactly the kind of work described to be perfect for motivation 2.0 (read here for infos about algorithmic vs. heuristic work).

So if companies want to attract and keep their most valuable employees – the ones that do heuristic work – it is necessary for them to make the shift away from carrots and sticks and towards motivation 3.0.

What does motivation 3.0 look like?

motivation 3.0 daniel pinkAccording to Daniel Pink, motivation 3.0 has three main components. It consists of autonomy, mastery and purpose. To have all three components in place is essential to make people in modern working environments flourish and allow them to do their best creative work.

1. Autonomy

Daniel Pink is convinced that people need autonomy over task (what they do), time (when they do it), team (who they do it with) and technique (how they do it). Since Pink believes that employees in the world of motivation 3.0 are mostly intrinsically motivated, he doesn’t think that autonomy will be abused.

2. Mastery

In times where rewards and punishments don’t motivate any longer, companies have to offer their employees something more. They need the vision to keep improving themselves and strive for mastery. This will keep them in a flow state of tasks that are neither too easy nor too hard, but constantly push employees to better themselves.

3. Purpose

In motivation 3.0, purpose maximisation is more important than  profit maximisation. In the 21st century people don’t only work for personal gains anymore, but also want to make the world a bit better. It can be a strong motivator if you can give employees a greater vision that their work is contributing to. If that vision does not exist, it will be difficult to motivate intrinsically motivated people to engage in a cause.

The motivation 3.0 takeaways

In our modern times, people are motivated by more than just rewards and punishments. Especially the ones that are highly skilled, creative and capable of making a real impact on the world are very sensitive when it comes to motivation. They need to be able to work on their own terms (autonomy), need to be able to keep improving themselves and not get stuck in a rut (mastery) and need to have a vision of what it is they are contributing to with their work (purpose). All this is what motivation 3.0 offers them.

Published in Professional Growth


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