I’ve always believed that if I offered rewards to my students, they would be motivated, hard working, and well behaved. Especially as a substitute teacher, rewards seem like an effective way to get the great behavior I need to have for a good day. Daniel Pink changed my mind about the effectiveness of “if-then” rewards. According to Pink, the “carrots and sticks” method doesn’t work. “Carrots and sticks” such as money often leads to unethical behavior in business. Even in education, there were incidents of cheating in standardized tests. We are moving towards a more creative, purpose driven economy. “If-then” rewards in more complex and abstract work narrows our focus, encourages unethical behavior, and leads to overall frustration and disatisfaction.
Motivation, according to Pink, is based on three elements: autonomy,mastery, and purpose. Intrinsic motivation is what eventually leads to happier and more productive workers.
People want to have autonomy over how they approach a task as opposed to being told what to do. Mastery comes from “flow” which are “optimal experiences when the challenges we face are exquisitely matched to our abilities (Pink, 2009). Finally, human beings have an innate need for purpose— to aspire for something greater than themselves.
As an aspiring art teacher, I feel that the lessons I teach are immeasurable. The arts helps us making something that was originally in our heads into something tangible. Art also fosters a sense of empathy while helping us building connections between ideas. Kids feel a sense of purpose when they create art. If I offer rewards, I would feel like I’m doing them a disservice. Rewards won’t help them reach their full creative potential. The real reward is the satisfaction of your hard work paying off when you feel like you’ve created a masterpiece.
Final question: If you are someone who is in charge of a group of people, whether you’re a manager, teacher or CEO, how do you motivate others based on Pink’s ideas? I would love to hear your ideas!
Here’s Pink’s TED talk about motivation: